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Last updated: February 16. 2013 6:43PM - 123 Views

FILE- In a Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, file photo, specialist Joseph Mastrolia, center, works with traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks climbed back from lows after minutes from the last major Federal Reserve meeting released Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, hinted at additional action to help the economy. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE- In a Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, file photo, specialist Joseph Mastrolia, center, works with traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks climbed back from lows after minutes from the last major Federal Reserve meeting released Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, hinted at additional action to help the economy. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
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(AP) Asian markets fell Friday as disappointment over weak economic indicators from the United States, China and Europe offset hopes for more stimulus from central banks.


Oil fell below $96 a barrel in Asian trading after a member of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policymaking board dampened hopes for additional stimulus.


Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 1 percent to 9,085.79 and China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.2 percent to 2,109.07. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.2 percent to 19,899.2.


Traders were dismayed by U.S. data showing the number of people seeking unemployment assistance rose for a second straight week.


Markets rose Wednesday after minutes of the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting showed bankers favored more stimulus. But they fell Thursday after the president of the St. Louis Fed said officials were considering new data that might make further action unnecessary.


"There now once again appears to be a state of confusion as to what the market can expect from the Fed at its next meeting in mid-September," analyst Cameron Peacock of Australia's IG Markets said in a report.


Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi declined 0.5 percent to 1,922.79 and Taiwan's Taiex lost 0.4 percent to 7,471.94. Singapore's Straits Times Index shed 0.5 percent to 3,041.1, while Australia's S&P ASX 200 was off 0.8 percent at 4,349.3.


In China, a survey released found manufacturing activity weakened in August despite repeated government stimulus efforts. HSBC Corp. said Thursday that the preliminary version of its purchasing managers' index fell to a nine-month low of 47.8 on a scale on which numbers below 50 indicate a contraction. New export orders fell at their fastest rate in three years.


Beijing cut interest rates twice in June and is pumping money into the economy through high spending on public works. Governments of several major cities have announced their own multibillion-dollar spending plans, but analysts expect major new initiatives to be put off until after a new Communist Party leadership is installed this fall.


U.S. new home sales rose 3.6 percent in July, but DBS Group said that only offset a drop of identical size the previous month.


Aside from improved employment and retail sales in July, "the data has been unchanged or slightly worse," DBS Group economists said in a report.


On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.6 percent on Thursday to 13,090.09 and the broader S&P 500 dropped 0.5 percent to 1,407.15.


In Europe, the PMI of overall economic activity in the 17-country eurozone was at 46.6 points in August, up only slightly from July's 46.5.


Analysts said the number shows the eurozone is firmly in recession, which will hurt efforts to reduce debt and boost investor confidence. Any improvement is likely to depend on governments and central banks doing more to reform their economies and boost demand.


The European Central Bank is expected to present in coming weeks a plan to help indebted countries like Spain and Italy by buying their government bonds.


Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will travel to Germany on Friday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and to France on Saturday for talks with President Francois Hollande.


Samaris is asking that Greece be given more time to meet deficit targets and implement reforms. Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, poured cold water on that idea, saying more time would not solve Greece's problems.


In currencies, the dollar rose to 78.625 yen, while the euro declined slightly to $1.256 after gaining the previous day on expectations the United States would pump more greenbacks into its economy.


Benchmark oil for October delivery fell 49 cents to $95.77 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1 to finish Thursday at $96.26 per barrel.


Associated Press
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