BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday after Chinese trade figures suggested a slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy might be plateauing.
China's exports and imports both increased last month and beat expectations. It was also a strong recovery from June, when trade contracted for the first time since about 2009. Customs data showed that exports rose 5.1 percent from a year earlier, while imports leaped 10.9 percent.
"The encouraging side is that exports have seen a good rebound from a pickup in the U.S. and from the slight global recovery," said Andrew Sullivan of Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong. "But there are concerns about the import number being so high. Until we see details, it's difficult to know how to react to it."
But Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.7 percent to 13,727.06 after the Bank of Japan ended a two-day policy meeting without expanding its massive monetary stimulus. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.6 percent to 1,889.23. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.9 percent to 5,056.10. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.4 percent to 2.053.85. The Philippines and New Zealand fell.
Uncertainty about when the Federal Reserve might rein in its monetary stimulus program has resulted in volatile markets. The Fed's stimulus over the past few years has helped keep interest rates super-low in order to spur growth. But it also had the unintended effect of pushing up stock markets, where investors have fled in search of returns that outpace bonds.
Recent signs of improvement in the U.S. economy have led to speculation that the Fed might begin to phase out its stimulus as soon as September. On Wednesday, news that the U.S. government filed lawsuits accusing Bank of America of misleading investors hurt sentiment on Wall Street. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission said the country's second-largest bank failed to tell investors about the risks involved in a 2008 sale of mortgage-backed bonds.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.3 percent, to close at 15,470.67. The S&P 500 fell 0.4 percent, to 1,690.91. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 11.76 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,654.01. Benchmark oil for September delivery was up 53 cents to $104.90 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 93 cents to close at $104.37 on the Nymex on Wednesday.
In currencies, the euro rose slightly to $1.3338 from $1.3337 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 96.30 yen from 96.55 yen.