Global stocks weak ahead of European growth data

YOUKYUNG LEE
Associated Press
View photos
People take shelter from rain under an awning of securities' firm in Tokyo, Thursday, May 15, 2014. Asian stocks mostly drifted lower Thursday as robust growth in Japan was offset by U.S. markets pulling back from record levels. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.9 percent to 14,279.69 despite the government reporting that the economy expanded at an annualized 5.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace in nearly three years. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stock markets were mostly lower Thursday ahead of quarterly European growth figures that investors hope will show a strengthening economic recovery.

European stocks turned lower after briefly trading in positive territory. Germany's DAX was down 0.1 percent to 9,743.35 and France's CAC 40 declined 0.3 percent to 4,488.09. Britain's FTSE 100 edged down 0.1 percent to 6,869.46.

Wall Street appeared set for losses, with the Dow and S&P 500 futures contracts both down 0.1 percent.

Investors are waiting for European growth figures later in the day. A survey of analysts by financial data provider FactSet forecasts that the eurozone economy grew 0.4 percent from the previous quarter, a figure that would confirm Europe's recovery from recession has gathered pace.

Even then, markets are expecting the European Central Bank to deliver stimulus measures at its June 5 meeting to keep the region's recovery from going into reverse. But those hopes failed to stoke investor appetite for risky assets.

Earlier in Asia, robust quarterly growth figure in Japan failed to boost sentiment. Investors reduced risky assets following a pullback in U.S. stocks from record levels.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.8 percent to 14,298.21 despite the government reporting that the economy expanded at an annualized 5.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace in nearly three years.

The growth was attributed to consumers and companies bringing forward spending ahead of a sales tax hike on April 1. Economists say the tax increase could cause a contraction in the economy in the current quarter.

China's Shanghai Composite fell 1.1 percent to 2,024.97. Southeast Asian markets were mostly down.

But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 5,510.80 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.7 percent to 22,730.86. South Korea's Kospi was little changed at 2,010.20.

"In the US, markets have tip-toed into unchartered territory in recent sessions but sustained moves higher appear to have been hampered by mixed economic data," said CMC Markets trader Niall King in a market commentary.

In the energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 36 cents to $102.01 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 67 cents Wednesday to $102.37.

In currencies, the euro edged down to $1.3667 from $1.3717 late Wednesday. The dollar advanced to 101.86 yen from 101.81 yen.