Asian stock markets lower as weakness in Chinese trade persists

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SEOUL, South Korea — Asian stock markets were lower Tuesday as China's trade data showed a larger-than-expected slide in imports, deepening concerns about slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.9 percent to 18,266.67 and South Korea's Kospi was down 0.2 percent to 2,018.58. China's Shanghai composite index fell 0.4 percent to 3,277.01 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 0.4 percent to 22,648.68. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.8 percent to 5,189.00. Stocks in Southeast Asia were also lower.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "China's foreign trade data are unlikely to convey any constructive messages just yet," said Michala Marcussen, head of global economics at Societe Generale.

CHINA SLOWDOWN: China's September imports fell by an unexpectedly wide margin of 20.4 percent from a year ago in a new sign of weakness in the world's second-largest economy, while exports also contracted. Customs data Tuesday showed Chinese purchases of foreign goods worsened from August's 5.5 percent decline, evidence of anemic demand despite repeated stimulus efforts aimed at reversing a decline in economic growth. Sales of Chinese goods to foreign markets fell 3.7 percent, an improvement from the previous month's 13.8 percent contraction.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks edged higher Monday ahead of a busy week for corporate earnings. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 2,017.46. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 percent to 17,131.86. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.2 percent to 4,838.64.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 31 cents to $47.41 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the contract dropped $2.53 to close at $47.10 a barrel after a report showed that OPEC members are keeping up production even after a big drop in prices. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 41 cents to $50.69 in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro was almost unchanged at $1.136 while the dollar weakened to 119.87 yen from 120.04 yen.

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