By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets struggled to make headway as data on Japan's economy disappointed investors and worries persisted about growth in China and Europe's ability to pull out of a debt crisis.
Japan's economy grew at a slower-than-expected annualized rate of 1.4 percent in April-June, with Europe's economic and debt crisis hitting the country's export sector hard. The report, coming on top of weaker-than-expected trade data from China on Friday, compounded fears of a global economic slowdown.
Still, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.2 percent in early trading, apparently sustained by an economy that was still in growth mode despite multiple headwinds. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 20,086.47 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent to 1,939.37. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 4,300.60.
Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne said investors remained frustrated by slowing export growth out of China and a less-than-expected decline in inflation in the world's second-largest economy. China said Friday that its exports rose 1 percent over a year earlier, well below the 5 percent that economists expected.
But the dismal report helped fuel speculation that China's central bank was preparing to act with some type of measure to spur business activity.
Shamu said in an email commentary that "easing talk is likely to ramp up over coming sessions and this could support markets and limit downside."
Benchmark oil for September delivery rose 38 cents to $93.25 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 49 cents to end at $92.87 per barrel in New York on Friday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2281 from $1.2294 in New York on Friday. The yen fell slightly to 78.28 yen from 78.26 yen.
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