• Asian marts close lower despite G20 pledge


    HONG KONG: Asian stock markets mostly lost ground in morning trade on Monday, with investors hardly moved by the Group of 20’s commitment over the weekend to boost global growth by $2 trillion over five years.

    After a weak lead from Wall Street, markets were looking to a string of US data in the week ahead for clues about the health of the world’s largest economy, with figures due out on housing, consumer confidence and gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

    In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei-225 index was flat, edging up 0.1 percent on thin trade by mid-morning, while the yen remained relatively low, boosting Japanese exporters. Seoul lost 0.43 percent and Sydney nudged down 0.15 percent.

    Hong Kong shares vaulted lower, falling 1.15 percent by mid-morning, while Shanghai tumbled 2.45 percent on reports of curbs to property lending on the Chinese mainland.

    The world’s biggest economies vowed on Sunday to boost global growth by more than $2 trillion over five years, shifting their focus away from austerity as a fragile recovery takes hold.

    The G20 members, who account for 85 percent of the world’s economy, said that they aim to lift their collective GDP by more than two percentage points over the next five years.

    Focus on us economy
    However, investors appeared to be focusing more on the forthcoming US figures, as analysts suggested the data may disappoint.

    US February consumer confidence figures are due to be released on Tuesday, followed by data showing durable goods orders and initial jobless claims on Thursday. On Friday, the final estimate for fourth-quarter US gross domestic product will be out.

    “It is possible that data to be released this week could come out lower than expected. Caution is needed over continued worries about the possibility of a US slowdown,” Tsuyoshi Nomaguchi, a senior strategist at Daiwa Securities, said in a note to clients.

    Nomaguchi said that the US market could receive support from investors hopeful that weak data could encourage the US Federal Reserve to continue its zero-interest rate policy.

    Japan will also publish a string of other data, including key inflation figures, on Friday. US stocks finished the week with modest declines. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 29.93 points (0.19 percent) to 16,103.30 on Friday.

    The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 0.19 percent, or 3.53 points to 1,836.25, while the tech-rich Nasdaq composite index slipped 0.10 percent, or 4.13 points to 4,263.41.

    Sales of used homes fell 5.1 percent in January to an annual pace of 4.62 million units, down from the rate of 4.87 million in December, according to the National Association of Realtors.



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