Asian stocks struggle to advance; Japan rallies

Asian stocks struggle to advance; Japan rallies

Asian stock markets outside of Japan struggled to advance Friday after data showed Europe tipping into recession territory while U.S. retail sales disappointed investors.

The European Union's statistics agency confirmed that the 17 countries using the euro currency are shrinking, with the region's gross domestic product contracting 0.1 percent in the third quarter from the previous three-month period.

In the U.S., investors were dealt dual blows: a worse-than-expected earnings report from Wal-Mart, and weak manufacturing data.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 21,146.29. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 1,867.71. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.1 percent at 4,343. Benchmarks in Taiwan and the Philippines rose. Mainland China's fell.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was enjoying a second-day rally as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda prepared to dissolve parliament, a move that would usher in elections next month. The Nikkei jumped 1.8 percent to 8,988.56.

U.S. stocks closed lower Thursday, a third straight decline, as retailers reported mixed earnings for the previous quarter. Aside from Wal-Mart, Ross Stores and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret, also issued forecasts that disappointed financial analysts.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.2 percent to 12,542.38. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.2 percent to 1,353.33. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.4 percent to 2,836.94.

Benchmark oil for December delivery fell 5 cents to $85.40 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 87 cents to close at $85.45 a barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the dollar weakened to 81.14 yen from 81.21 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro was unchanged at $1.2773.