Asia stocks lower as Italy borrowing costs rise
BANGKOK—Asian stock markets fell Wednesday as improved economic data out of the U.S. failed to overcome worries about Europe's festering debt crisis.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 0.1 percent to 8,529.98. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 1.7 percent to 19,025.92 and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.4 percent to 1,877.88. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and mainland China also fell.
Stocks in Asia didn't follow through on the momentum from Wall Street, where a session of big swings ended with modest gains. The Dow rose 0.1 percent to 12,096.16. The S&P 500 gained 0.5 percent to 1,257.81, and the Nasdaq added 1.1 percent to 2,686.20.
Data on retail sales showed Americans spending more on autos, electronics and building supplies in October -- the fifth straight month of increases.
Sales increased 0.5 percent from the previous month, a faster rate than economists expected and the latest indication that the U.S. economy is likely to avoid another recession.
But Europe's debt woes continued to weigh on markets. Higher interest rates on government debt issued by Italy, Spain and other countries rattled European stock markets Tuesday. The interest rate on Italy's 10-year bond jumped back above 7 percent, a dangerously high level.
The debt crisis among the 17 nations that use the euro currency "appears to be deteriorating by the day," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB said in a report. "Contagion has spread across eurozone bond markets like wildfire and the lack of action to create a firewall means that that there is little to extinguish it."
Italy's borrowing rate first crossed the 7 percent threshold last week, raising worries about Rome's ability to manage its debts. Greece, Ireland and Portugal had to get rescued by international lenders when their borrowing rates crossed the same level.
Many economists think Europe could head back into recession over the coming months.
Chinese property shares were sharply lower amid falling housing prices as government efforts to cool the overheated housing industry take effect. Hong Kong-listed blue chip companies China Vanke lost 4.9 percent and China Overseas Land & Investment fell 4.3 percent.
Japan's Nisshin Steel rose 3.7 percent after announcing intentions to integrate operations with Nippon Metal Industry by October 2012, Kyodo News Agency said. Olympus jumped 8.1 percent amid easing worries that the company -- embroiled in a scandal over the concealment of huge investment losses -- will be delisted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Benchmark crude for December delivery was down 70 cents to $98.67 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.23 to close at $99.37 on the Nymex on Tuesday.
The euro fell to $1.3448 from $1.3543 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 77.07 yen from 77.04 yen.