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Asia stocks slump on US job growth worries

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PAMELA SAMPSON | April 3, 2012 11:21 PM EST | AP

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BANGKOK — Asian stock markets on Wednesday followed Wall Street into negative territory after the Federal Reserve voiced concern about U.S. job growth but appeared to refrain from taking steps to prop up the economy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.4 percent to 9,910.84 after briefly slipping to 9,886.34, its lowest level in a month.

South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.9 percent to 2,030.90 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.3 percent to 4,324.60.

Markets in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed for public holidays.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve released minutes of the March meeting of its Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates and monetary policy.

The Fed minutes showed that policymakers fear hiring could slow if economic growth doesn't improve. That caused Wall Street stocks to slump.

The minutes also did not address the logistics of more bond-buying – troubling to traders who have been hoping for more action from the Fed.

The Fed has embarked on two previous rounds of bond-buying, most recently in August 2010, to drive down long-term interest rates. Low bond yields generally encourage profit-hungry investors to buy stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.5 percent at 13,199.55. The Standard & Poor's 500 index finished down 0.4 percent at 1,413.38. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.2 percent to 3,113.57.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 37 cents to $103.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.22 to settle at $104.01 per barrel in New York on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3199 from $1.3217 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 82.63 yen from 82.86 yen.

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(This version CORRECTS Corrects that oil contract fell, not rose, on Tuesday)