Asian stocks struggle after Wall Street falls for first time in 7 days

HONG KONG – Asian stock markets struggled for direction Tuesday after Wall Street fell for the first time in seven days, in a possible sign that investors were pausing to re-evaluate the market’s recent highs.

Japan’s benchmark struggled as auto stocks were weighed down by news of a massive airbag recall.

Two major U.S. benchmarks ended lower by a fraction, a possible sign of a summer lull after a record-setting run, leaving investors in Asia with little guidance.

Markets were unmoved by a mixed batch of economic data releases, including upbeat monthly reports on existing U.S. home sales and China manufacturing and a disappointing eurozone business indicator. Concerns about geopolitical turmoil stemming from the turmoil in Iraq also lingered.

“It will be a quiet day in Asia today given the lack of first tier data,” strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a report.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 pulled back from earlier losses to edge 0.1 per cent higher to 15,389.64. Among the big losers were Honda Motor Co., which fell 1.3 per cent, and Nissan Motor Co., which dropped 0.9 per cent. The two carmakers along with Mazda announced the day before that they were recalling a combined 3 million vehicles for defective airbags manufactured by a supplier.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 1 per cent to 1,995.74 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.3 per cent to 22,884.80. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China gained 0.4 per cent to 2,032.38.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 per cent to 5,429.30 as investors took profits a day after a big gain.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell less than 0.1 per cent to close at 1,962.61 while the Dow dropped less than 0.1 per cent to close at 16,937.26. The Nasdaq was practically unchanged at 4,368.68.

In energy trading, the price of U.S. benchmark crude for August delivery fell 47 cents to $105.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 66 cents to $106.17 on Monday.

In currencies, the dollar edged lower to 101.90 Japanese yen from 101.91 in late trading Monday. The euro weakened to $1.3597 from $1.3601.