HONG KONG (AP) — World stock markets drifted Wednesday as investor sentiment was kept in check by the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates as well as the lingering fears about China's weakening growth.
KEEPING SCORE: European shares were mixed in midday trading. France's CAC 40 slipped 0.7 percent to 5,052.08 and Germany's DAX edged down the same rate to 11,925.25. Britain's FTSE 100 crept up 0.1 percent to 7,023.30. U.S. stocks looked set for a lackluster start, with S&P 500 futures unchanged and Dow futures down 0.1 percent.
INVESTOR INDECISION: Markets were mostly in a holding pattern as investors turned cautious following recent economic data on the world's biggest economies. U.S. data showed that durable goods orders fell in February, though consumer prices rose for the first time in four months while new home sales climbed to their fastest pace in seven years. Overall, that maintains concerns the Fed could soon lift interest rates. In China, HSBC's preliminary purchasing managers' index showed manufacturing activity there slumped to the lowest in 11-months. In Europe, a key survey showed German business confidence rose for a fifth month.
MARKET VIEW: "It remains to be seen whether we are going through a period of equilibrium, where bulls and bears even each other out, or simply a period where traders are happy to ride out the end of a good quarter by staying on the sidelines," Nicholas Teo of CMC Markets in Singapore wrote in a commentary.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index reversed earlier losses to close 0.2 percent at 19,746.20 and South Korea's Kospi rose less than 0.1 percent to 2,042.81. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.5 percent to 24,528.23 while the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China lost 0.8 percent to 3,660.73. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 finished up less than 0.1 percent at 5,973.30, just off its highest level in more than seven years. Southeast Asian indexes were mixed.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude futures rose 18 cents to $47.69 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 6 cents to close at $47.51 a barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 119.30 yen from 119.75 in the previous session. The euro strengthened to $1.1009 from $1.0914.