Cautious Mood Dominant In Markets Ahead Of US Data

By TERESA CEROJANO

MANILA, 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.

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