Asia stocks fall on weaker US housing data

BANGKOK -- Asian stock markets fell Friday after the latest data on U.S. housing dimmed hopes of improvement in an industry that is crucial to recovery in the world's No. 1 economy.

The National Association of Realtors' index of sales agreements showed Thursday that the number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose only slightly in September from August. That suggests sales may level off in the coming months after solid gains in the past year.

The result was a letdown to investors whose hopes had been bolstered by data Wednesday that showed new home sales rose last month to the highest annual pace in the past two and a half years.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.1 percent to 9,042.36. South Korea's Kospi slid 1.3 percent to 1,900.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.6 percent to 21,678.28. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 percent to 4,494.30.

A mixed batch of U.S. corporate earnings did little to lure investors from the sidelines. Infant formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition reported revenue well below what analysts expected. Profits at United Airlines slid with fewer people flying. But consumer products company Procter & Gamble posted earnings that beat analysts' estimates.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.2 percent to 13,103.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.3 percent to 1,412.97. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.2 percent to 2,986.12.

Benchmark oil for December delivery was down 7 cents to $85.98 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 32 cents to finish at $86.05 in New York on Thursday, its first rise in four days.

In currencies, the euro edged up slightly to $1.2950 from $1.2949. The dollar fell to 80.17 yen from 80.29 yen.


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