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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Asian stock markets lacklustre as China posts slower economic growth, Wall Street shut

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Asian stock markets were lacklustre Monday with Wall Street closed for a long weekend and China's economic growth slowing.

Japan's Nikkei 225 sank 0.6 per cent to 15,638.54. China's Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.4 per cent to 1,996.27 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.5 per cent at 23,010.25. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.3 per cent at 5,289.

China's economy grew 7.7 per cent in the quarter through December, down from 7.8 per cent the previous quarter. For the full year, the economy expanded 7.7 per cent, tying 2012 for the weakest performance since the 1990s.

China's growth is far stronger than the United States, Japan or Europe. But an unexpectedly abrupt decline from the double digit rates of the previous decade has complicated the ruling Communist Party's plans to promote more sustainable growth based on domestic consumption and reduce reliance on trade and investment.

"The 'boom' is ending, but sustained demand is just as important," said Evan Lucas, market strategist with IG in Melbourne, Australia.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi bucked the trend to rise 0.2 per cent at 1,927.73. Taiwan's benchmark rose 0.3 per cent to 8,620.33 and Jakarta's Composite rose 0.4 per cent to 4,431.15.

Wall Street was dragged down Friday by weak corporate earnings. The Dow gained 0.3 per cent to 16,462 but the S&P 500 dropped 0.1 per cent to 1,844.21.

Analysts said the U.S. corporate reporting season will be in focus when Wall Street reopens Tuesday. If earnings continue to disappoint, there will be concern in the next quarter results when it will reflect the impact of an expected stimulus cut by the Federal Reserve. Markets will also be cautious ahead of the Fed's next meeting on Jan 29.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was down 73 cents to $93.64 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 41 cents to settle at $94.37 on Friday.

The euro fell to $1.3529 from $1.3542. The dollar dropped to 104.09 yen from 104.12 yen.

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