Asian stocks slightly lower ahead of ECB meeting

Asian stocks were slightly lower Thursday ahead of central bank meetings in Europe that might produce further measures to revive the continent's moribund economy.

Some analysts expect the European Central Bank to cut lending rates by half a percentage point and the Bank of England to boost money in circulation through a bond purchasing program known as quantitative easing.

Global stocks and commodities have mostly rallied this week after Friday's agreement by the leaders of the 17 euro countries to allow Europe's bailout fund to capitalize banks directly and to buy bonds of debt-ridden countries.

But some analysts expect the rally to fizzle out unless investors begin to see signs that the growth slowdown in the U.S., Europe and China is reversing. Some European countries, such as Greece and Spain, are already in recession.

"This rally could last a few more weeks, but I don't think it's sustainable," said Lim Say Boon, chief investment officer for DBS Private Bank in Singapore. "The global economy is slowing and that's clearer than a few months ago. I don't think the E.U. summit made things better. It was a feel-good."

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2 percent to 9,088.27 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.4 percent to 19,622.18.

South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.1 percent to 1,871.92. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3 percent to 4,160.30. China's Shanghai Composite tumbled 1.1 percent to 2,203.34.

U.S. markets reopen Thursday after being closed Wednesday for the Independence Day holiday. Traders will be eyeing the government's June employment report Friday as a barometer of the economy's overall health.

Benchmark oil for August delivery was down 69 cents at $86.97 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude rose $3.91 to close at $87.66 on Tuesday, the last day the August contract settled in New York.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2534 from $1.2561 on Wednesday. The dollar gained to 80.01 yen from 79.80 yen.