Asian stocks follow Wall Street lower

HONG KONG (AP) Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower Friday on lingering concerns about weakness in the Chinese economy and tensions in Ukraine.

Regional benchmarks took their lead from the Dow Jones industrial average, which had its worst day in six weeks.

Worries that world's No. 2 economy is entering a deeper slowdown were heightened after data released Thursday showed Chinese industrial production and retail sales grew slower than analysts expected. At the same time, Premier Li Keqiang signaled that China's leaders are "not preoccupied" with hitting the official 7.5 percent economic growth target.

Investors are also retreating from risky investments such as stocks ahead of a public referendum in Crimea on Sunday to decide whether to break away from Ukraine and become part of Russia.

"Risk aversion is likely to deepen at the end of the week and at the beginning of next week," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB wrote in a research note.

Japan's Nikkei 225 tumbled 2.7 percent to 14,411.86 as investors sought haven in yen, sending its value higher. A stronger yen makes goods sold by the country's exporters pricier for overseas buyers. The dollar has lost about 1.3 percent against the yen in the past week and was trading at 101.72 Japanese yen, slightly lower than the 102.74 yen late Thursday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.9 percent to 21,563.28 and China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.5 percent to 2,008.05.

Stocks in Australia, where the resource-led economy and currency have been highly dependent on China's fortunes, dropped sharply, with the S&P/ASX 200 sinking 1.2 percent to 5,349.40.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average slid 231.19 points, or 1.4 percent, to 16,108.89 on Thursday. The S&P 500 fell 21.86 points, or 1.2 percent, to close at 1,846.34. The Nasdaq composite dropped 62.91 points, or 1.5 percent, to 4,260.42.

The last time the market had a bigger decline was Feb. 3, when the Dow sank 326 points, or 2.1 percent.

The euro rose slightly to $1.3864 from $1.3863.

Oil prices slipped. Benchmark crude for April delivery was down 6 cents to $98.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 21 cents to close at $98.20 on Thursday.