Japan's exports fell 3.3% in November, continuing a trend that began with October's 2.2% decline. Steep drops in chemicals, steel and mineral fuels outstripped the growth of car sales. Imports fell 10.2% in November, mostly because of lower oil and gas prices.
Various economic reports indicate that the U.S. recovery is gaining momentum. New-housing permits were up 10.9% in October, well above the 2.4% analysts expected. New claims for unemployment benefits last week fell to the lowest number since April.
Stock markets were mixed Thursday in Asian-Pacific, with investors searching for bargains among shares depressed by concerns about Europe's debt crisis. South Korea's Kospi added 1.1%, Japan's Nikkei 225 climbed 0.2% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.8%, and China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.2%. India's Sensex was down 0.1% at midday.
Wheat futures fell as forecasters said production will increase in the U.S., Australia and Argentina. On the Chicago Board of Trade on Wednesday, wheat for March delivery fell 0.9%. Wheat is down 19% this year.