Asia stocks muted as China trade drops

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A man checks his mobile phone near an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday, except for Japan where the main index tumbled on a rise in the yen. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A man checks his mobile phone near an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday, except for Japan where the main index tumbled on a rise in the yen. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A man looks at an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday, except for Japan where the main index tumbled on a rise in the yen. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A man walks past an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday, except for Japan where the main index tumbled on a rise in the yen. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A man looks at an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Asian stocks were mostly higher Wednesday, except for Japan where the main index tumbled on a rise in the yen. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

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TOKYO (AP) — Asian stock markets were muted Thursday as worse-than-expected Chinese trade figures tempered optimism stemming from signs the Federal Reserve won’t rush to raise interest rates.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 stock average rebounded from its 2.1 percent tumble the day before, gaining 0.8 percent to 14,415.15 by midday in Japan.

South Korea’s Kospi index edged 0.1 percent higher to 2,001.65 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.4 percent to 5,487.30.

However, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.2 percent to 22,808.22 after China released data showing an 11.3 percent plunge in imports and a surprise 6.6 percent drop in exports in March. The figures suggest the mainland’s economic slowdown may be deeper than feared.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index also weakened, falling 0.2 percent to 2,100.26. Shares also fell in Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan.

U.S. indexes advanced Wednesday after the nation’s central bank issued minutes from a meeting showing Fed policymakers want to be absolutely certain the U.S. economy has recovered before starting to raise interest rates.

Markets appear to have stabilized following the bout of volatility in technology-related shares earlier in the week spurred by jitters over whether technology, Internet and biotech stocks may be overvalued.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq index rose 0.7 percent to 4,142.11 on Wednesday and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.1 percent to 16,437.18. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 1.1 percent to 1,872.18.

In other markets, the dollar was trading at 101.90 yen, compared to 102.10 late Wednesday. It has strengthened since the Bank of Japan failed to announce fresh stimulus measures earlier this week. The euro fell to $1.3852 from $1.3856.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 28 cents at $103.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.04 to $103.60 on Wednesday.

Associated Press

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