The stock market in Hong Kong opened sharply lower and is trading in negative territory on Wednesday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where the major indices ended lower on disappointing retail sales data and a weak producer prices report.

The Commerce Department said that retail sales fell 1.1% month-over-month in March following an upwardly revised 0.3% increase in February. The decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected sales to increase by 0.3%. In another report, the Labor Department said that its producer price index fell 1.2% in March compared to economist estimates of a flat reading. Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, were unchanged compared to the previous month.

However, better-than-expected financial results from Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson as well as positive comments by President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke helped to limit the losses.

The Dow closed down 137.63 points or 1.7% at 7,920, the Nasdaq closed down 27.59 points or 1.7% at 1,626 and the S&P 500 closed down 17.23 points or 2.0% at 842.

In Asian trading, crude oil is currently down $0.14 at $49.27 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery dropped $0.64 to $49.41 a barrel on Tuesday amid choppy trading, as traders await the weekly inventory report from the Energy Information Administration later in the day.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index opened weaker at 15,345, compared to its previous close of 15,580, and is presently trading at 15,313, down 267.18 points, or 1.71%.

Among the financials, HSBC Holdings is losing 2.88%, Bank of Communications is falling 1.09%, Bank of China is decreasing 2.37% and Bank of East Asia is edging down 0.74%. Other banks are also trading in negative territory.

Insurance stocks are trading weak. Ping An is down 1.97% and China Life is losing 2.30%.

Among property stocks, Henderson Land is down 2.13%, Wharf Holdings is slipping 1.78%, SHK Properties is falling 2.38%, New World Development is declining 3.66% and Sino Land is losing 1.42%.

Resource stocks are trading mixed. While Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, is losing 1.63% and PetroChina is down 1.90%, CNOOC is gaining 1.94%.

China-related stocks are also trading mixed. China Resources is gaining 1.12%, but China Mercantile Holdings is losing 3.12% and China Overseas is falling 0.89%.

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