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Asia stocks drop after rise in China property prices loses some momentum

MANILA, Philippines - Asian stock markets mostly fell Monday after a slower increase in Chinese property prices added to jitters about the strength of the world's No. 2 economy.

China's Shanghai Composite Index slid 2 per cent to 2,070.70 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.3 per cent to 22,278.95. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 0.7 per cent at 14,770.17.

In China's 70 biggest cities, average price increases in January for new housing were down 0.7 percentage points from December's rise, while that for secondhand homes declined by 0.4 percentage points. Year-on-year price increases remain substantial, however, at over 20 per cent for the eight cities with fastest growth in prices.

Still, the figures sparked a sell-off in mainland developer shares and come on top of a HSBC survey last week that showed a second straight month of contraction in China's manufacturing. An official manufacturing survey is due later this week.

"There will be plenty of nerves that this release could also disappoint," said Stan Shamu, strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, Australia.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi was off 0.4 per cent at 1,949.86 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.2 per cent to 5,430.10. Markets rose in Singapore, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Wall Street fell Friday as investors assessed the latest round of company earnings.

The S&P 500 fell 3.53 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 1,836.25. The index lost 2.38 points for the week and is now 12 points below its record close of 1,848.38, set Jan. 15.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 29.93 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 16,103.30.

Benchmark U.S. oil for April delivery up 27 cents at $102.47 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 55 cents on Friday to close at $102.20.

In currencies, the euro dipped to $1.3735 from $1.3737 late Friday. The dollar dropped to 102.31 yen from 102.53 yen late Friday.

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