Asia stocks weighed down by glum US economic data

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Asian stock markets fell Friday as strong U.S. company earnings failed to calm investor nerves in the face of economic reports that suggest the world's No. 1 economy is struggling to maintain its recovery.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.4 percent to 9,548.14, a day after Japan reported a record annual trade deficit resulting from huge imports of oil and gas in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami last year that forced nearly all of Japan's nuclear power reactors offline.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 20,927.64 and South Korea's Kospi lost 1.3 percent to 1,973.47.

In the U.S., strong corporate earnings from Morgan Stanley, eBay, Southwest Airlines and Bank of America weren't enough to make up for weak reports on jobs, housing and manufacturing.

The Labor Department said weekly applications for unemployment benefits were down 2,000 to 386,000 but anything above 375,000 is generally taken as a sign that hiring isn't strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Sales of previously owned homes fell 2.6 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million. In healthier markets, sales typically are closer to 6 million. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing output in the mid-Atlantic region slowed a bit from the previous month.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5 percent to close at 12,964.10. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 0.6 percent to 1,376.92. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.8 percent to 3,007.56.

In energy trading, benchmark oil for May delivery was up 27 cents to $102.54 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell by 40 cents to end at $102.27 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

The euro rose to $1.3136 from $1.3130 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 81.60 yen from 81.46 yen.