Asian stocks mixed on poor Japanese data, growth fears

SINGAPORE — Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday as poor Japanese data and worries about global growth put a damper on trading.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.6 percent to 20,430.73 while South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 2,102.45. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent to 26,756.09. Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent to 5,822.60.The Shanghai Composite index was flat at 2,568.88. Shares fell in Taiwan but rose in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

WALL STREET: U.S. indexes climbed Tuesday to their highest level in a month after Chinese officials said measures were in place to help the world's second largest economy through a slowdown. Technology companies rallied after Netflix announced its biggest price increase in history. The broad S&P 500 index jumped 1.1 percent to 2,610.30. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7 percent to 24,065.59. The Nasdaq composite, which has many technology stocks, jumped 1.7 percent at 7,023.83.

JAPAN ECONOMY: On Wednesday, Japan said its core machinery orders were flat in November at 863.1 billion yen, compared with October's 7.6 percent rise. This was also lower than analysts' expectations of a 3 percent increase. There was a sharp drop in orders from the manufacturing sector, although overseas orders climbed. The data suggests Japanese companies may be less confident in making big-ticket purchases in the face of global risks.

CHINESE GROWTH: Senior Chinese economic leaders, in outlining their policy plans for 2019, have promised to cut taxes and keep monetary policy flexible to help the country weather a slowdown. The news lifted Chinese shares and global financial markets on Tuesday. Buying eased on Wednesday as traders took stock of the country's falling exports to the U.S. amid a costly trade dispute. Both sides have pledged to work on their issues, but there seems to be a long road ahead with higher-level negotiations to come.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Markets had a good start to the year on optimism. It is not a surprise that traders are taking a pause to consider the whole global picture, before corporate earnings start to take center stage," said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped 13 cents to $51.98 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added $1.60 to settle at $52.11 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 7 cents to $60.57. It gained $1.65 to $60.64 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar eased to 108.53 yen from 108.69 late Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.1399 from $1.1413. After a Brexit deal vote fell through, the British pound fell to $1.2842 from $1.2859.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay contributed. He can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP

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