Asia shares mostly lower as China inflation data, Japanese business sentiment cloud outlook

TOKYO – Asian stock markets were mostly lower Wednesday as data from both China and Japan pointed to continued weakness in the world’s second and third-largest economies.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.6 per cent to 17,530.39 after a government survey showed a deterioration in business sentiment in the current quarter, especially among smaller companies. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.1 per cent to 23,455.87 while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.3 per cent to 2,863.57 after a dramatic tumble Tuesday. South Korea’s Kospi lost 1.3 per cent to 1,944.80 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 per cent to 5,262.60. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

CHINA INFLATION: China reported Wednesday that its consumer price index rose 1.4 per cent in November, the slowest pace in five years, and a sign of weak domestic demand. That was way below the government’s target of 3.5 per cent, though lower oil prices are seen as an important factor.

THE QUOTE: “China has entered into a rapid dis-inflation process, and faces the risk of deflation as commodity prices continue to trend lower and growth is expected to slow further in the coming year,” ANZ economists Li-Gang Liu and Hao Zhou said in a commentary.

HANGOVER: China’s benchmark fell 5.4 per cent on Tuesday, snapping a buying frenzy that has pushed it up by 41 per cent since June. Investors remained cautious following sharp declines in Asia and Europe, where jitters over political developments in Greece added to uncertainty.

WALL STREET: U.S. markets fell Tuesday but losses were capped by a rally in energy company shares. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.3 per cent to 17,801.20 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 was almost unchanged at 2,059.82.

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained slightly against the Japanese currency, trading at 119.56 yen versus 119.40 late Tuesday. The euro edged lower to $1.2373 from to $1.2385.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 96 cents to $62.86 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 77 cents to close at $63.82 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 88 cents to $65.96 on the ICE futures exchange in London.