World stock markets whimper ahead of EU summit

PAMELA SAMPSON
People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, June 28, 2012. Good news about the U.S. economy helped Asian stock markets rise Thursday, although lingering fears about Europe's ability to tame its debt turmoil kept gains in check.   (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
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People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, June 28, 2012. Good news about the U.S. economy helped Asian stock markets rise Thursday, although lingering fears about Europe's ability to tame its debt turmoil kept gains in check. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

BANGKOK (AP) — Global stock markets mostly sank Thursday as European leaders prepared for yet another powwow in Brussels to discuss how to tame a spiraling debt crisis.

Expectations for the European Union summit that starts Thursday are low. Many experts say the creation of a common eurobond is the answer to debt problems afflicting euro nations. They believe it would help lower indebted countries' borrowing costs, easing the risk they may need a bailout. But Germany is reluctant to expose itself to new potential costs and is concerned that such bonds would ease the pressure on countries like Greece and Spain to reform their economies.

Though little is expected from the summit, some traders think the European Central Bank may take more aggressive action to ease the crisis, such as a third round of super cheap long-term loans. The second round in December helped stabilize financial markets earlier this year.

In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.9 percent to 5,476.15. Germany's DAX dropped 1.4 percent to 6,139.60 and France's CAC-40 lost 1.2 percent to 3,027.80.

Wall Street headed for a mixed open, with Dow Jones industrial futures up 0.5 percent to 12,544 and S&P 500 futures down 0.6 percent to 1,317.70.

A few Asian markets posted gains after positive housing and manufacturing reports out of the U.S. on Wednesday. Government figures showed that durable goods orders rose by 1.1 percent in May after two months of declines, and a report showed that pending home sales jumped in May, the latest signal that the U.S. housing market may be improving following a slump of more than six years.

Some analysts said the data was hardly robust and did not spell an end to the sluggishness of the U.S. economic recovery.

"Markets took a charitable view of yesterday's data. It was better than expected but frankly the bar was set low," analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a market commentary. "Treading water is good if sinking is the alternative."

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.7 percent to 8,874.11. South Korea's Kospi rose marginally to 1,819.18 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up earlier gains to fall 0.8 percent to 19,025.27.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was slightly up at 4.044.80. Benchmarks in Singapore and New Zealand rose. Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand fell.

Mainland Chinese shares lost ground, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index down 1 percent to 2,195.84, the lowest closing in almost five months. The Shenzhen Composite Index lost 1 percent to 909.28.

"The investors turned to panic from just being pessimistic," said Zhang Yang, an analyst at Sinolink Securities, based in Shanghai. "It will continue to be gloomy."

Japanese automakers that depend heavily on overseas sales were among rising shares. Toyota Motor Corp. rose 2.6 percent. Isuzu Motors Ltd. jumped 3.3 percent. Mazda Motor Corp. added 2 percent.

Oil prices fell below the $80 a barrel mark. Benchmark oil for August delivery dipped 36 cents at $79.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 85 cents to close at $80.21 per barrel in New York on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2427 from $1.2459 in New York on Wednesday. The dollar fell to 79.24 yen from 79.75 yen.

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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

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AP researcher Fu Ting contributed from Shanghai.