Asian stocks lower as traders eye Greece, China

May 11, 2012 - 12:25 AM

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian stock markets were lower Friday as traders eyed political upheaval in Greece and signs of slowing economic growth in China.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4 percent to 8,972.24 and South Korea's Kospi lost 1.3 percent at 1,919.20. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.2 percent to 19,989.54.

Asian stocks jumped in the first two months of the year but have since traded slightly lower amid investor concern that economies in the U.S. and China may grow less than previously expected.

Greek politicians have so far failed to form a government after Sunday's elections undermined support for the ruling coalition. Greece is buckling under the weight of a deep recession and government austerity measures designed to control surging debt levels.

Meanwhile, China said Friday that its inflation rate fell to 3.4 percent in April from 3.6 percent the previous month, giving the government more room for possible stimulus measures. On Thursday, China said its trade surplus widened in April as imports barely budged, raising concern that the world's second-biggest economy continues to slow.

China grew by 8.1 percent in the first quarter, down from the previous quarter's 8.9 percent.

"Now that you have the European uncertainty coming back in a bigger way, I think people are going to hold back a bit longer," said Lorraine Tan, director of equities research at credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's. "The key will be for China to grow at least 8 percent this year to help fuel global growth and demand."

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell along with benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 percent to close at 12,855.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.3 percent to 1,357.99. The Nasdaq composite fell marginally to 2,933.64.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down $1.16 at $95.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 27 cents to settle at $97.08 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro was steady at $1.2928 while the dollar was little changed at 79.86 Japanese yen.

___

Follow Alex Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexkennedy_ap