By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Friday before China releases last month's inflation and other economic data.
"Chinese data for January should be interpreted positively, but markets react to the country's indicators in a jumpy way and a major deviation from consensus may well introduce volatility," said Dariusz Kowalczyk of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent at 23,208.91. South Korea's Kopsi advanced 0.5 percent to 1,941.79. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6 percent to 4,963.10. Benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia, mainland China and the Philippines also rose.
Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 1.2 percent to 11,216.41, slumping after a recent rally spurred by a weakening yen. Some analysts believe the yen may have bottomed out and that the rally has run its course. A weaker yen benefits Japan's export manufacturers because it makes their products cheaper in overseas markets.
Wall Street stocks fell Thursday as weaker earnings unnerved investors despite data suggesting that company layoffs are easing. Media conglomerate News Corp. cut its forecast for annual earnings. Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., lost $1.3 billion in its latest quarter as it revamped its network to take on larger competitors.
On the bright side, fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week. Applications for unemployment benefits falling 5,000 to 366,000.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.3 percent at 13,944.05. The S&P 500 fell 0.2 percent to 1,509.4. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1 percent to 3,165.13.
Benchmark oil for March delivery fell 4 cents to $95.79 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 79 cents to finish at $95.83 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3395 from $1.3401 late Thursday in New York. The dollar was unchanged at 93.52 yen.
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