BANGKOK — Asian stock markets drifted Wednesday as the boost from stronger Chinese manufacturing was offset by grim economic news from Europe and airstrikes in Syria.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 0.2 percent at 16,174.69 while Seoul's Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 2,029.94. Hong Kong's Hang shed 0.1 percent to 23,824.50 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.9 percent to 5,368.30. China's Shanghai Composite was little changed at 2,309.91. Southeast Asia markets mostly rose.
THE QUOTE: "Geopolitical risk, which has been simmering in the background, is back to the fore" after the US and their Arab allies launched a series of air strikes into Islamic State positions at the Syrian-Iraqi border, potentially increasing instability in the region, said CMC analyst Desmond Chua. "Helping to limit losses in the equity markets, however, was the continual outperformance of economic indicators, with US manufacturing activity clocking a four-year high," he said. "Better-than-expected Chinese factory day also alleviated concerns that the second largest economy was facing a slowdown."
CHINA FACTORIES: China's manufacturing unexpectedly improved in September, according to a preliminary survey released Tuesday, though there were some mixed messages in the report. New orders and exports increased at a faster rate but employment fell. Overall, the report helped to ease jitters about a deeper slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.
EUROPE STAGNATES: A closely watched gauge of business activity for the region fell to a nine-month low. Investors have been dealing with meager economic growth in Europe for months. The eurozone economy has been flat or barely growing since April, hobbled by the lingering effects of a debt crisis, uncertainty over a conflict in Ukraine and a lack of confidence among European consumers, businesses and banks. European market indexes sank after the economic news. Germany's DAX fell 1.6 percent, France's CAC 40 fell 1.9 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 lost 1 percent.
SYRIA: Along with bad economic news, investors had geopolitical concerns to worry about. The U.S. and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group's headquarters in eastern Syria in nighttime raids Tuesday. U.S. aircraft as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from Navy ships in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf were used.
WALL STREET: The Dow slid 116.81 points, or 0.7 percent, to 17,055.87. The S&P 500 lost 11.52 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,982.77 and the Nasdaq composite fell 19 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,508.69. The Dow's triple-digit fall on Tuesday follows a 107-point stumble from the day before. The blue chip index hasn't posted two losses of 100 or more points since June. Still, the outlook in the U.S. is far more positive than Europe.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 1 cent at $91.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.2855 from $1.2841 late Tuesday. The dollar dropped to 108.66 yen from 108.80 yen.