By PAMELA SAMPSONAP Business Writer
BANGKOK (AP) - Asian stock markets fell Friday, deflated after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no hint of immediate action to jump-start growth in the world's No. 1 economy.
Bernanke avoided sending any signals Thursday in an appearance before members of the U.S. Congress about what the Fed might do in response to a slowdown in hiring. The 69,000 jobs created in May was the fewest in a year.
Bernanke didn't pledge any new Fed measures, but he didn't rule out future actions. He said Fed officials would closely examine the latest economic developments when they next meet on June 19-20.
Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong said markets were "slightly disappointed" that Bernanke had not said the Fed would extend its Treasury bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing. The program injects money into the financial system, lowering interest rates to spur lending and growth.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 2 percent to 8,471.04. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.6 percent to 1,837.19. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.1 percent to 4,062.90. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.4 percent to 18,604.18.
Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand also fell. Mainland Chinese shares moved higher by midday.
An effort by China on Thursday to reverse a sharp economic downturn by a surprise cut to the benchmark lending rates failed to rejuvenate markets because it may have been too little, Lun said.
"The economy is slowing much faster than people expected," he said.
The interest rate on a one-year loan will be cut by a quarter percentage point to 6.31 percent effective Friday, the Chinese central bank announced.
While the rate cut was small, it was the first since November 2008 - and it served as a signal to banks, companies and consumers that Beijing approves of more borrowing.
China has rolled out a series of measures to stimulate the economy after growth fell to a nearly three-year low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter and April factory output grew at its slowest rate since the 2008 crisis. Private sector analysts expect this quarter's growth to fall further.
Andrew Sullivan of Piper Jaffray Asia in Hong Kong said in a commentary that investor concerns remained focused on Europe - where a lingering financial crisis has now infected Spain and its banks.
Global investors are worried that the recession-hit country can't come up with the money needed to save its banks without bankrupting the government. Expectations are rising that Spain's leaders will have to seek an international bailout for banks swaying under the weight of bad real estate loans.
Spain's borrowing costs have soared close to the level that forced the governments of Greece, Portugal and Ireland to seek financial rescues. As much as 100 billion euros ($126 billion) may be needed to bolster Spanish banks, the credit rating agency Fitch said Thursday.
Tumbling gold prices sent shares of Australia's Newcrest Mining plummeting 5.7 percent. Banking shares across Asia also fell. Japan's Mizuho Financial Group lost 3.3 percent while Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the world's biggest bank by market value, was down 2.9 percent.
Beijing's latest move to spur growth helped Chinese property stocks. Hong Kong-listed Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd. climbed 4.8 percent and China Overseas Land & Investment added 2.9 percent.
On Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 percent to 12,460.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell marginally to 1,314.99. The Nasdaq composite index 0.5 percent to 2,831.02.
Benchmark oil for July delivery was down $1.67 to $83.19 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 20 cents to finish at $84.82 per barrel in New York.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2524 from $1.2601 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 79.32 yen from 79.68 yen.
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