Asia stocks down as weak Wall St offsets Japan GDP

Associated Press
People take shelter from rain under an awning of securities' firm in Tokyo, Thursday, May 15, 2014. Asian stocks mostly drifted lower Thursday as robust growth in Japan was offset by U.S. markets pulling back from record levels. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.9 percent to 14,279.69 despite the government reporting that the economy expanded at an annualized 5.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace in nearly three years. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stocks mostly drifted lower Thursday as robust growth in Japan was offset by U.S. markets pulling back from record levels.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index fell 1.1 percent to 14,248.85 despite the government reporting that the economy expanded at an annualized 5.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace in nearly three years.

The growth was attributed to consumers and companies bringing forward spending ahead of a sales tax hike on April 1. Economists say the tax increase could cause a contraction in the economy in the current quarter.

China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.7 percent to 2,033.18 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.1 percent to 5,499.60.

But Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.4 percent to 22,667.67. South Korea's Kospi was little changed at 2,010.21. Southeast Asian markets were mostly down.

"In the US, markets have tip-toed into unchartered territory in recent sessions but sustained moves higher appear to have been hampered by mixed economic data," said CMC Markets trader Niall King in a market commentary.

U.S. stocks pulled back from record levels Thursday as investors sought safe assets. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 0.5 percent to 1,888.53 and the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.6 percent to 16,613. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 0.7 percent to 4,100.63.

Investors are waiting for European growth figures later Thursday. A survey of analysts by financial data provider FactSet forecasts that the eurozone economy grew 0.4 percent from the previous quarter, a figure that would confirm Europe's recovery from recession has gathered pace.

In the energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 25 cents to $102.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 67 cents Wednesday to $102.37.

In currencies, the euro edged down to $1.3715 from $1.3717 late Wednesday. The dollar advanced to 101.92 yen from 101.81 yen.

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