BANGKOK (AP) - Asian stock markets extended losses today after weak U.S. indicators sparked fears of a slowdown in the world's biggest economy.
The troubling data included weak hiring by businesses, a plunge in mortgage applications and sluggish orders to U.S. factories.
Investors also continued to register their disappointment a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a speech to business leaders that introduced the third plank of his economic reform program.
Fed chief Ben Bernanke has said the U.S. central bank might pull back on its $85 billion a month bond-buying program as economic data improves. But other Fed officials have spoken about a winding down of asset purchases sooner.
The Fed faces a perilous decision: If it pulls back its stimulus too soon, the U.S. economic recovery could sputter. If it waits too long, super-low rates could ignite inflation. Or they could swell speculative asset bubbles as investors pursue riskier investments, including stocks, with potentially richer returns than low-yielding bonds.
Benchmark crude oil rose but remained below $94 per barrel. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen.