By TERESA CEROJANOMANILA, Philippines (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets floundered Friday as China pressed ahead with industrial restructuring that is partly to blame for slowing growth in the world's No. 2 economy. Beijing ordered companies to close factories in 19 industries where overproduction has led to price-cutting wars, affirming its determination to push ahead with a painful makeover of the economy. That move followed weak manufacturing data on Wednesday. Communist leaders are trying to reduce reliance on investment and trade. But a slowdown that pushed China's economic growth to a two-decade low of 7.5 percent last quarter had earlier prompted suggestions they might have to reverse course and stimulate the economy with more investment to reduce the threat of job losses and unrest. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 3 percent at 14,129.98 as the yen rose against the dollar. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed at 21,904.18. China's Shanghai Composite dropped 0.3 percent to 2,015.14. Manuel Antonio Lisbona, from Manila's PNB Securities Inc., said the mixed trading could be attributed to continuing market reaction to feeble economic data from China and unexciting corporate earnings reports. "It's a continuation of the sentiment for the past few days," he said. "The markets are still digesting the implications of the weak China data that came out earlier this week." Elsewhere in the region, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent to 5,042. Stocks in Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand were slightly higher while benchmarks in the Philippines and Indonesia fell. Andrew Sullivan, principal Asian trader for Kim Eng Securities, said the Japanese market has been affected by the strengthening of the yen overnight as people wait for comments from Prime Minister Abe about the next economic reform steps the government will take. He said the market is watching for signs of changes in agriculture, employment, the pharmaceutical industry and taxes.
Overall, trading has been quiet as a lot of people wait for next week's meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee in the U.S. for guidance on the tapering of U.S. government bond purchases, he said. Since late last year, the U.S. Federal Reserve has been buying $85 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds a month â¿¿ a move that has kept long-term rates near record lows and supported economic recovery.European stocks drifted lower Thursday amid mixed economic and corporate news. Not even an upbeat German business survey or news that the British economy has picked up steam could alter the prevailing selling mood. U.S. economic figures failed to lift the mood on Wall Street much, with a bigger-than-expected 4.2 percent surge in durable goods orders in June downplayed because it was largely due to elevated aircraft sales. Meanwhile, a 7,000 increase in weekly U.S. jobless claims was more or less in line with expectations. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13.37 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 15,555.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 4.31 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,690.25. The latest run of corporate earnings around the world also failed to excite. Though a number of companies like Facebook have impressed, investors have not shown much willingness to push markets higher on the back of corporate earnings. Among the latest releases, Facebook and General Motors impressed but German chemical company BASF disappointed. In energy trading, benchmark crude was down 37 cents at $105.13 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 10 cents to close at $105.49 on Thursday. The euro was little changed at $1.3280 from $1.3277 late Thursday. The dollar dropped to 98.79 yen from 99.15 yen.