Asian stock markets mixed in holiday-thinned trade after weak US economy indicators

BANGKOK – Asian stock markets were mixed in holiday-thinned trading Monday after weak U.S. indicators dulled optimism about prospects for the world’s biggest economy.

Several markets were closed including Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. Oil traders were also on holiday. Wall Street and European stock markets are closed Monday because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index finished up 1 per cent at 8,479.34 after being closed for a public holiday Friday while South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.6 per cent to 1,856.70.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.7 per cent to 2,190.11. Markets in India and the Philippines gained while benchmarks inTaiwan and Thailand fell.

Figures showing that U.S. consumer spending and personal income rose by a modest 0.1 per cent in November were below market expectations. The headline 3.8 per cent increase in durable goods orders last month masked a decline in a crucial investment measure, benefiting from big orders for Boeing aircraft.

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The data offset some of the optimism in markets about the U.S. economy following a run of largely positive indicators. Since Thursday, investors have taken heart from figures showing that the number of initial jobless claims in the U.S. unexpectedly fell 4,000 last week to 364,000, the lowest level since April 2008.

While the U.S. economy has been the dominant driver in markets the past few days, Europe’s debt crisis is likely to remain the key market focus next year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 124.35 points, or 1 per cent, to 12,294 on Friday in quiet pre-holiday trade. The Nasdaq composite index gained 19.19 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 2,618.64. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 11.33 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 1,265.33.

In currencies, the euro was up 0.1 per cent at $1.3068. The dollar was down 0.1 per cent at 77.96 yen.