HONG KONG—Asian stock markets slipped Friday in holiday-thinned trading as investors shied away from risky assets before the release of Chinese economic data and a Fed policy meeting, and as fears loomed that Britain could vote to leave the European Union.
Keeping score: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.7 per cent to 16,558.54 while South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.3 per cent to 2,017.71. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.6 per cent to 21,159.97 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slid 1 per cent to 5,308.50. Benchmarks in Singapore and Indonesia fell but in the Philippines and Thailand they rose. Markets were closed in mainland China and Taiwan for a holiday.
China data: The latest figures for Chinese retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment are expected this weekend. The numbers will provide further clues on the direction of the protracted slowdown of the world’s second-biggest economy. Export data released earlier this week showed further contraction as global and domestic demand remained weak, underscoring the difficulties officials in Beijing face in trying to reverse the slump.
Fed in focus: Investors are keenly awaiting the outcome of a scheduled two-day Fed meeting that wraps up on Wednesday. Doubts are growing that U.S. policymakers will raise interest rates soon after Fed chief Janet Yellen said Monday that many lingering uncertainties mean it’s unclear when the Fed should resume raising rates.
Brexit fears: Investors are avoiding risk as polls suggest growing support for Britain to quit the European Union ahead of a June 23 referendum on the issue. The uncertainty over how a so-called “Brexit” might affect financial markets is driving investors into safer assets, analysts said.
Quoteworthy: “The market has a number of potential risk events before it,” said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “Chief among these is the Brexit vote on 23 June. Now only two weeks away, the Brexit vote is likely to impact trader behaviour in the broader risk markets like equities and commodities.”
Wall Street: Major U.S. benchmarks ended slightly lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average edging 0.1 per cent lower to 17,985.19. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.2 per cent to 2,115.48 and the Nasdaq composite declined 0.3 per cent to 4,958.62.
Energy: U.S. crude shed 38 cents to $50.18 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 35 cents to $51.60 a barrel in London.
Currencies: The dollar rose to 107.10 yen from 107.05 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro dropped to $1.1297 from $1.1310.