Asian stocks lackluster after Wall St drifts lower, Japanese factory output surges



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BEIJING — Asian stocks were lackluster Friday after U.S. markets drifted lower and Japan reported faster growth in factory output but weaker retail sales.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3 percent to 18,840.77 and the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent 3,300.19. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.6 percent at 24,058.10 and Seoul's Kospi shed 0.1 percent to 1,991.20. Sydney and Jakarta gained while Singapore and New Zealand declined.

JAPAN SIGNALS: Industrial output in the world's third-largest economy jumped by 4 percent month-on-month in January compared with December's 0.8 percent rise, government data showed. That raises production to levels recorded ahead of last year's sales tax hike, which crimped consumer spending. At the same time, retail spending fell 1.3 percent month-on-month. That weakness adds to pressure on the Bank of Japan to roll out new stimulus measures, according to Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics.

THE QUOTE: "Japan's inflation and household spending disappointed expectations but industrial production came in strongly, suggesting that an export-led recovery could be in play," Mizuho Bank said in a report.

EUROPE ACTION: European stock markets gained after a survey showed consumer optimism in Germany climbed to its highest level since 2001. Market jitters over Greece's debt burden eased this week after its European creditors approved a four-month extension to the country's financial bailout.

WALL STREET: Lower oil prices weighed on energy stocks. Chevron and Exxon Mobil were among the biggest decliners in the Dow. The Dow ended down 10.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,214.42. The S&P 500 index slipped 3.12 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,110.74. The Nasdaq gained 20.75 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,987.89. The three indexes are all up for the year.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 70 cents to $48.87 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract shed 60 cents to close at $48.17. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 67 cents to $60.72 after giving up 46 cents on Thursday to $60.05.

CURRENCIES: The dollar gained to 119.26 yen from Thursday's 119.24 yen. The euro was little changed at $1.1210 from $1.1209.

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