BEIJING (AP) — European stocks mostly gained while Asian markets faltered Wednesday as investors monitored upbeat eurozone economic data and looked ahead to U.S. indicators.
KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France's CAC-40 added 0.4 percent to 4,886.38 points and Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent to 11,291.77. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 6,878.49. Wall Street looked set for further declines. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 were down 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent.
EUROZONE MOMENTUM: Two reports showed the economy of the 19-country eurozone is picking up momentum. Retail sales grew by a larger-than-expected 1.1 percent in monthly terms in January. It is the first time since records began in 2000 that they've grown for four consecutive months. Meanwhile, a key gauge of business activity showed growth in February in all four of the region's big economies — Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
U.S. OUTLOOK: Looking ahead, investors were to the release of data on employment by ADP, a payroll processing company, and manufacturing data from the Institute for Supply Management. Those provide hints for the Labor Department's release of monthly jobs data Friday; the report is an important influence on the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions and scrutinized by financial markets.
ANALYST'S TAKE: The U.S. economy appears strong despite data this week showing declines in construction spending and vehicle sales, according to Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics. "We expect another fairly strong rise in payrolls and a drop in the unemployment rate in the February employment report on Friday," said O'Sullivan in a report.
CHINA TARGET: China's Premier Li Keqiang is expected to lower this year's official growth target to 7 percent from last year's 7.5 percent when he makes an annual appearance before the national legislature Thursday to announce government economic plans. The lower target after a decade of double-digit expansion is part of the ruling Communist Party's marathon effort to reduce China's reliance on trade and investment and nurture more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and service industries.
ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.6 percent to 18,703.60 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 1 percent to 24,465.38. Seoul's Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 1,998.29. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5 percent to 3,279.53. India's Sensex gained 0.8 percent to 29,823.02 after the central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates. Jakarta, Sydney and New Zealand also declined while Taipei and Singapore gained.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 39 cents to $50.93 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 93 cents on Tuesday to close at $40.42.
CURRENCIES: The dollar was little changed at 119.60 yen from the previous session's 119.66 yen. The euro fell to $1.1130 from $1.1180.