Asian shares mixed, dollar rises on ECB stimulus hopes

HONG KONG (AP) " Asia stock markets drifted Friday as oil prices slid. The dollar rallied after Europe's central bank kept the door open for more monetary stimulus, leaving investor sentiment mixed.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3 percent to 17,285.53 but South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 2,032.85. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China fell 0.1 percent to 3,080.52 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent to 5,434.00. Benchmarks in Southeast Asia were mixed. Hong Kong's stock market was closed due to a typhoon.

ECB STIMULUS: At a news conference on Thursday, the head of the European Central Bank kept alive the possibility that it could extend its stimulus program beyond March, the earliest possible end date. Mario Draghi said a decision on the 1.7 trillion euro ($1.9 trillion) bond-buying program would not come until December, which was widely expected. But he added it's unlikely there would be an "abrupt end" to the program. That sent the euro lower.

ANALYST INSIGHT: "Despite the numerous past measures taken, such as quantitative easing and cutting interest rates to negative territory, there have been little signs of improvement," said Alex Furber, a senior sales trader at CMC Markets in Singapore. "The key question has now become what else can the ECB do to spur growth in the region."

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended little changed. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 0.2 percent to 18,162.35. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.2 percent to 2,141.34. The Nasdaq composite index crept 0.1 percent lower to 5,241.83.

ENERGY: Oil futures extended losses. Benchmark U.S. crude lost 23 cents to $50.40 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.17, or 2.3 percent, to close at $50.43 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid 19 cents to $51.19 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar increased to 104.17 yen from 104.08 on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.0901 from $1.0927. The official exchange rate for the Chinese currency yuan fell to a six-year low against the dollar of 6.7558 yuan as investors bet that an eventual interest rate hike in the U.S. will boost the dollar.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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