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China stocks lead Asian markets lower after Beijing cuts annual economic growth target

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HONG KONG — Chinese stocks led Asian markets lower on Thursday after the country's leaders cut the annual growth target for the world's No. 2 economy.

KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.6 percent to 24,309.53 and the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China lost 1.2 percent to 3,240.41. The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia, where commodity producers have been highly dependent on Chinese demand, slipped 0.4 percent to 5,880.70. Indexes in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand also dropped. Other major Asian benchmarks rose weakly, with Japan's Nikkei 225 up 0.3 percent to 18761.36. South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.1 percent to 2,000.56.

CHINA TARGET: The communist leaders of the world's second-biggest economy announced an official growth target of about 7 percent, down from 7.5 percent last year. Premier Li Keqiang said in a report to China's ceremonial national legislature that the goal was part of overall efforts to create a "moderately prosperous society." The new official benchmark comes after China's economy expanded 7.4 percent in 2014, its slowest pace in nearly a quarter century.

PHOTO: Trader Thomas Kay works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, March 4, 2015. U.S. stocks are opening lower, putting the market on track for a second day of losses. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Trader Thomas Kay works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, March 4, 2015. U.S. stocks are opening lower, putting the market on track for a second day of losses. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

THE QUOTE: Analysts said markets had mostly factored the new GDP growth target into prices but the news would still affect Asian trading. The target is "an enviable number no doubt for most major economies," said Nicholas Teo at CMC Markets in Singapore. "For China, however, this would represent a slowdown that will be felt domestically even as the country continues to readjust and reposition itself for this next phase of economic reform."

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks ended slightly lower as investors pulled back after a strong run that saw benchmarks hitting record highs earlier this week. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 106.47 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,096.90. The S&P 500 gave up 9.25 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,098.53. The Nasdaq composite fell 12.76 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,967.14.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 21 cents to $51.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.01 to settle at $51.53 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international benchmark, added 6 cents to $60.61 in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 119.79 yen from 119.73 yen in the previous session. The euro fell to $1.1072 from $1.1077.

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PHOTO: Specialist Glenn Carell, left, works with traders at the post that handles Alibaba, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, March 4, 2015. U.S. stocks are opening lower, putting the market on track for a second day of losses. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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