Asia stocks lower ahead of Europe data, US sales

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Friday as traders awaited European inflation data and the first day of the U.S. Christmas shopping season.

The region's heavyweight, Japan's Nikkei 225, tumbled 0.8 percent to 15,607.75 after gaining strongly on Thursday. Hong Kong and Taipei rose but benchmarks in China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand all declined.

Trading was light after U.S. markets were closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Wall Street reopens for shortened trading hours Friday, while markets watched the informal start of Christmas shopping, a critical period for retailers.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.3 percent to 23,864.08 and Taiwan's Taiex rose 0.4 percent to 8,400.03. India's Sensex gained 1.2 percent to 20,771.18. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index was unchanged at 2,219.97. Seoul's Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 2,039.63 and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 was off 0.2 percent at 5,321.3. New Zealand, Singapore and Manila also fell.

Traders were looking ahead to inflation data due out Friday for European countries that use the euro currency. A decline from October's 0.7 percent rate might stoke hopes for more monetary easing by the European Central Bank but some analysts expected an uptick in price rises.

Stronger inflation would "remove some of the pressure on the ECB to act," said Credit Agricole CIB in a report. On Thursday, the Nikkei gained 1.8 percent to its highest close since December 2007. Japanese stocks have been boosted by the yen's decline, which helps exporters by making their goods less expensive abroad.

In Europe, benchmarks in Germany, France and Britain all ended higher Thursday. In currency markets, the euro strengthened to $1.3620 from $1.3600 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 102.21 yen from 102.33 yen.

Benchmark crude fell 10 cents to $92.20 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have drifted down in recent weeks amid high supplies and as concern over Syria and Iran subsided.

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