BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets fell Thursday as weaker-than-expected orders for U.S. durable goods, falling commodities prices and signs of slower economic growth in Britain kept investors at bay.
Benchmark oil remained below $106 per barrel while the dollar was steady against the euro and lower against the yen.
Disappointment stemmed from data released Wednesday by the U.S. Commerce Department that showed orders for durable goods rose 2.2 percent in February. While that compared favorably to a steep drop in January, analysts had expected orders to increase 2.7 percent.
"U.S. economic data shows weakness in the economic recovery. That really confirms what the Fed Chairman, Bernanke, said last week that the Federal Reserve has to continue loose monetary policy in order to aid economic recovery and employment," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong.
Investors are also concerned about recent signs of a slowdown in China. China is a huge importer of raw materials, so a slowing economy there can weigh on prices for raw materials.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index retreated for a second day after reaching a one-year high, falling 0.7 percent to 10,112.58.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng tumbled 1.2 percent to 20,634.33 and South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.9 percent to 2,012.98.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 percent to 4,338.10. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and mainland China also fell.
The prospect of slowing growth from the world's two biggest economies pummeled industrial, energy and materials stocks.
Hong Kong-listed Aluminum Corp. of China shed 1.9 percent. CNOOC Ltd., China's main offshore oil and gas producer, tumbled 3 percent despite reporting that its 2011 profit rose 29.1 percent on higher oil and gas sales. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., South Korea's leading shipbuilder, fell 3.6 percent.
Leighton Holdings plummeted 7.3 percent in Sydney after the Australian construction company cut its full year profit forecast because of losses in several major infrastructure projects.
Analysts said investors are also holding back as they await news later this week on Europe's progress in resolving its debt crisis and also weekly jobless claims in the U.S. later Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed Wednesday down 0.5 percent at 13,126.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.5 percent to 1,405.54. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.5 percent, to 3,104.96.
Benchmark crude oil was down 7 cents to $105.34 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.92 to end at $105.41 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday. Oil prices declined after France's government said it is considering a release of emergency stockpiles as part of a U.S.-led effort to ease the recent climb in prices.
In currencies, the euro was unchanged from $1.3324 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 82.71 yen from 82.79 yen.
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