World Economy

Asia Stocks Down

Asia Stocks DownAsia Stocks Down

Asian stock markets were lackluster Wednesday as investors digested a fall in Chinese home prices and Japan’s scramble to overcome its economic malaise.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was little changed at 17,347.76. It gained 2.2 percent the day before on news the government had delayed a second sales tax hike in response to the world’s third-largest economy slipping into recession. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent to 23,469.31 and China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.2 percent to 2,451.23. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.5 percent to 5,374.80. Markets rose in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia. Benchmarks in South Korea and Thailand fell.

Further softening in China’s property prices has pushed down stocks linked to iron ore, copper and steel. In October, house prices contracted in 69 of 70 cities tracked by the government and the drop overall was 2.6 percent, figures released Monday showed. As property is a significant driver of growth in China, the weakness suggests its economic growth will continue to slow from the 7.3 percent recorded last quarter.

  Wall Street

Investors remained in a record-setting mood Tuesday, edging the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 to their latest all-time highs. The S&P 500 added 10.48 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,051.80. Its previous closing high was set Monday. The Dow rose 40.07 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,687.82. The Nasdaq composite gained 31.44 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,702.44.

ENERGY: Benchmark US crude was down 28 cents to $74.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.03 to close at $74.61 on Tuesday. Brent crude was up 10 cents at $78.57 in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 117.26 yen from 117.12 yen late Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.2516 from $1.2523.

US stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday following record closing highs for both the Dow and S&P 500 and ahead of housing data and minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve policy meeting.

* Data on housing starts and building permits for October is due at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT) while the Fed is set to publish minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s October policy meeting at 2:00 p.m. EST (1900 GMT).

* Lowe’s shares rose 4.5 percent in premarket trading after the No. 2 US home improvement products retailer raised its full-year profit and sales forecast as an improving job market encourages home owners to increase spending on renovations.