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Asia stocks slip on weakness in US retail sales

Asian stock markets were mostly lower Friday after disappointing U.S. retail sales stirred concerns about the robustness of the recovery in the world's No. 1 economy.

Major retailers such as Costco and Macy's reported that April revenue rose less that 1 percent — the worst performance since 2009 when the U.S. economy was just coming out of a bad recession.

That put a crimp in trading in Asia, where many exporters are reliant on demand from American consumers. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.8 percent to 21,085.64 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.5 percent to 1,984.98. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 4,401.10. Markets in Japan were closed for a public holiday.

Meanwhile, European stocks closed mostly lower Thursday after signs the European Central Bank will not inject more cash into the region's fragile banking system.

Investor nerves have also been tested by a report that showed U.S. businesses adding far fewer jobs in April than they did in March. Markets are now focusing on Friday's release of U.S. monthly hiring for clues to the U.S. economy's health and on the French presidential election runoff this weekend.

"As we move through today expect more weakness as investors focus on the French election and the US jobs number," Andrew Sullivan, principal sales trader at Piper Jaffray in Hong Kong, said in an email.

Polls suggest that France's presidential election on Sunday will be won by Socialist contender Francois Hollande, and that may lead to a different emphasis in Europe's ongoing struggle to deal with its massive debt problems.

Some investors have voiced fear Hollande could upset France's delicate cooperation, via incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, with Germany in resolving the crisis.

The disappointing April retail sales figures weighed on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5 percent to 13,206.59. The S&P 500 dropped 0.8 percent to 1,391.57. The Nasdaq composite average slid 1.2 percent to 3,024.30.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 14 cents to $102.68 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.68 to settle at $102.54 in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3157 from $1.3151 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 80.16 yen from 80.29 yen.