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Japan's Nikkei leads Asian stock declines after weak economic data

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HONG KONG - Tokyo stocks led declines in most Asian markets on Friday after Japanese economic data showed that the region's second biggest economy is struggling to recover from a sales tax hike.

KEEPING SCORE: The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, fell 0.7 per cent to 15,358.35. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.2 per cent to 2,071.22 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.1 per cent at 24,724.45. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index swung between gains and losses and was up 0.5 per cent to 2,206.23. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged down less than 0.1 per cent to 5,621.60. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand also slipped.

JAPAN: The latest official monthly data showed that the world's third-largest economy remained in the doldrums despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's stimulus program. In July, inflation was unchanged from the previous month, real incomes slipped 6.2 per cent from a year earlier and unemployment edged higher to 3.8 per cent.

GEOPOLITICS: More economic reports are due later from Europe and the U.S. but jittery investors are watching the Ukraine conflict for signs of further escalation after the country's president reported that Russian forces had entered the country. "While a barrage of economic data is due for release tonight, the (U.S.) personal spending, inflation, wage, Chicago PMI and consumer sentiment data will likely be sidelined by developments out of Ukraine," said Desmond Chua of CMC Markets.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.3 per cent to close at 17,079.57 on Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 0.2 per cent to 1,996.74. The Nasdaq composite shed or 0.3 per cent to 4,557.69.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 9 cents to $94.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 67 cents to settle at $94.55 on Thursday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 103.72 yen from 103.68 in late trading Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.3183 from $1.3185.

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