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Asian stocks mixed after U.S. growth slowdown

BEIJING - Global stocks were mixed Thursday, with most markets closed for a holiday, after U.S. economic growth slowed and the Federal Reserve promised to keep interest rates low.

Oil edged down below $100 per barrel on expectations of weaker U.S. demand and reports of higher supplies.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index gained 1.3 percent to 14,485.13, while Malaysia added 0.7 percent to 1,871.52. Sydney's S&P ASX 200 shed 0.7 percent to 5,448.80, and New Zealand was off 0.4 percent at 5,556.38.

Markets in China, India, Germany, France, South Korea and Taiwan were closed for the labor day holiday.

Investors were encouraged by the Fed's pledge Wednesday following a policy meeting to keep short-term interest rates low to support the economy "for a considerable time" after its bond purchases end, likely late this year.

"The accommodative stance is certainly going to maintain the current upswings in consumer sentiment and spending," Evan Lucas of IG Markets said in a report.

In China, a survey of manufacturers by the state-sanctioned Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed April activity growth was weak, adding to signs the world's second-largest economy is cooling further after growth dipped to 7.4 percent in the three months ending in March.

In a sign of confidence in the U.S. economy, the Fed said it would go ahead with plans to reduce bond purchases by $10 billion this month. Such purchases were aimed at encouraging investment by pushing down long-term interest rates and have helped to buoy stock markets.

U.S. government data showed economic growth slowed to a 0.1 percent annualized rate in the January-March period from 2.6 percent in the previous quarter.

That was the weakest growth since late 2012 and was largely put down to the winter storms that hit North America during the period. But it disappointed economists who expected a more modest slowdown to 1.1 percent.

A hiring survey by the ADP payrolls processor said the U.S. economy added 220,000 jobs in April, up from 209,000 in March and the most since November. Official government figures are due Friday.

On Wall Street, the future for the Dow Jones industrial average was flat on the Chicago Board of Trade. That for the broader Standard & Poor's 500 was up 0.1 percent.

Crude for June delivery shed another 18 cents to $99.56 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On Wednesday, the contract fell $1.54 per barrel to $99.74 after U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed on Russian officials, businesspeople and companies over the Ukraine crisis were less severe than traders feared. Markets had been on edge that sanctions might disrupt Russian oil supplies.

In currency markets, the dollar was unchanged at 102.25 yen and the euro was flat at $1.387.

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