By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were flat Tuesday, a day after the U.S. government released disappointing economic news.
The Commerce Department said orders for long-lasting durable goods, such as commercial aircraft, plunged 7.3 percent in July. That was the steepest drop in a year.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index was marginally higher at 13,639.60. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent to 21,928.89. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.4 percent to 1,895.15 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was nearly unchanged at 5,135.30.
Stock losses were kept to a minimum because markets have been seeing any piece of disappointing news from the U.S. as a reason to suspect the Fed might stick with its current monetary stimulus or only reduce it very gradually. The Fed's aggressive bond-buying program, which has suppressed long-term interest rates, has led investors to stock markets in search of better returns.
The durable goods figures followed a report Friday revealing that new home sales in the U.S. tumbled last month, raising questions about the strength of the recovery in the U.S. housing market, a key piece of the country's overall economy.
"Further US data disappointment is likely today, with the August consumer confidence survey set to decline in contrast to a likely increase in the German IFO business confidence survey," Mitul Kotecha of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.
Markets in the U.S. were rattled Monday after Secretary of State John Kerry said there was "undeniable" evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria last week, and suggested the administration was edging closer to a military response.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.4 percent to close at 14,946.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped 0.4 percent to close at 1,656.78. The Nasdaq composite slipped marginally to 3,657.57.
Benchmark oil for October delivery was up 52 cents to $106.44 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 50 cents to close at $105.92 a barrel on the Nynex on Monday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3373 from $1.3377 late Monday. The dollar fell to 98.24 yen from 98.31 yen.
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