World Economy

Japan, Australia Shares Lead Asian Market Losses

Japan, Australia Shares Lead Asian Market LossesJapan, Australia Shares Lead Asian Market Losses

Asian shares saw a mixed end to the week after a lackluster lead from Wall Street, following disappointing US economic data.

The Dow Jones fell 0.4% as data showed that US housing starts were below expectations in March, while jobless claims were their highest in six weeks.

Markets in Europe also fell sharply on concerns about the slow progress in bailout negotiations between Greece and international creditors.

The Nikkei was down 1.2% at 19,652.88. That is its lowest closing since 7 April. The index has fallen 1.3% this week.

The dollar fell to 119 yen, down from 119.33 yen in Tokyo on Thursday.

Investors ignored government data that showed consumer confidence improved for the fourth consecutive month in March.

Chinese shares were higher, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index up 0.3% at 27,822.4, while the Shanghai Composite was 2.3% higher at 4,290.9. The mainland benchmark index is on track to gain over 6% this week.

Australian shares headed lower following another slide in the price of iron ore, the country’s most valuable export. The price of the commodity slid back below $50, less than half its value a year ago, putting pressure on heavyweight miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 closed down 1.2% to 5,877.9.

South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index ended up 0.2% to 2,143.5. The index was up 2.6% for the week, marking its biggest weekly gain in 11 months and rising for a sixth consecutive session.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped slightly after earlier touching its highest level since January 2008, but was still on track for a weekly gain over 1 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.3 percent, approaching this week’s seven-year highs triggered by inflows from mainland investors. The Shanghai Composite Index was up 2.2 percent.