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Asian stock markets weak amid new Europe jitters after problems at Portugal bank

MUMBAI, India - Asian stock markets were muted Friday, following the lead of Wall Street traders spooked by worries about the soundness of a bank in Portugal that raised the spectre of more financial turmoil in Europe.

Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.3 per cent to 15,176.27 and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.6 per cent to 1,999.00. Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched up 0.1 per cent to 23,260.06 while Taiwan's Taiex shed 0.2 per cent to 9,548.18.

The cautious mood was driven by fears that emerged Thursday about the financial stability of Portugal's Espirito Santo International, which reportedly missed a debt payment this week and was cited for accounting irregularities, echoing issues that sparked Europe's debt crisis four years ago.

"News from Portugal dampened risk sentiment," said Herv� Goulletquer, head of market research for Credit Agricole Bank in a commentary.

Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysian stocks were down 0.3 per cent to 1,886.89 after the central bank raised its key interest rate for the first time in three years.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.6 per cent to 5,498.80. China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.4 per cent to 2,141.50.

The renewed Europe jitters dragged down Wall Street on Thursday. The Dow fell 0.4 per cent to 16,915.07. The S&P 500 index fell 0.4 per cent to 1,964.88 and the Nasdaq composite lost 0.5 per cent to 4,396.20.

In Europe, Germany's DAX closed down 1.5 per cent at 9,659.13 and the CAC-40 in France fell 1.3 per cent to 4,301.26. The FTSE 100 in London ended 0.7 per cent lower at 6,672.37.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 13 cents at $102.80 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 64 cents to $102.93 on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro was unchanged at $1.3603. The dollar dropped to 101.25 yen from 101.30 late Thursday.

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