MUMBAI, India (AP) — Asian stocks drifted on Wednesday as investors remained cautious amid uncertainty over potential conflict in Ukraine and Iraq plus new numbers showing a slowdown in Japan's economy.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 was up 0.2 percent to 15,186.10. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 24,662.88. China's Shanghai Composite dropped 0.6 percent to 2,207.30 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3 percent to 5,515.20. Seoul's Kospi added 0.6 percent to 2,053.75.
JAPAN SLOWS: Government figures showed Japan's economy shrank at an annual pace of 6.8 percent in the second quarter after spending got slammed by a sales tax hike that kicked in from April. The weak figures were expected as consumers and businesses had front-loaded spending in the first quarter to beat the April 1 increase in sales tax. Economists expect spending to pick up again in coming months.
INSTABILITY JITTERS: Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have faded in recent days, but worries about conflicts around the globe are likely to keep investors on edge. A convoy of more than 260 Russian trucks, reportedly packed with supplies, moved toward Russia's border with Ukraine on Tuesday, but Kiev said the goods would only be allowed to cross if they were inspected by the International Red Cross. Ukraine is fearful that Russia could use the move as a cover for sending troops into separatist-held territory. Investors are also watching political machinations in oil-rich Iraq. On Tuesday, that nation's embattled prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, tried to stay in power as Iraqi politicians and the international community rallied behind a political rival.
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