World stocks flat on Europe, US woes; Japan gains

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Associated Press

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 16 at 2:30 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Trading on world stock markets was lethargic Friday after data showed Europe slipped back into recession and several big U.S. retailers disappointed investors with weak forecasts.

The European Union's statistics agency said Thursday that the combined economy of the 17 countries that use the euro contracted 0.1 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter. Surveys pointing to difficult conditions ahead suggest the recession could deepen.

"Although unsurprising, data in Europe confirmed that the region fell back into recession, an outcome that will do little to ease tensions," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email commentary.

European stocks were flat in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent to 5,672.68. Germany's DAX was almost unchanged at 7,044.06. France's CAC-40 inched up less than 0.1 percent to 3,385.29.

Wall Street also flat-lined ahead of the open. Dow Jones industrial futures were almost unchanged at 12,524. S&P 500 futures inched up marginally to 1,352.10.

Trading in Asia was slightly more energetic. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 21,159.01. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.5 percent to 1,860.83. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.3 percent to 4,336.80.

Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and mainland China fell. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 percent to 2,014.72 and the Shenzhen Composite Index fell 0.7 percent to 800.20. Benchmarks in Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines rose.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index jumped 2.2 percent to close at 9,024.16, rallying for a second straight day on expectations that the opposition Liberal Democratic Party may win elections next month and pursue more aggressive stimulus policies than the current leadership.

LDP leader Shinzo Abe has said he is determined to push for such policies and to find ways to weaken the yen, whose strength against other currencies has hammered exporters.

Stan Shamu, strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, said Abe wants an inflation target of between 2 and 3 percent as a way to cheapen the Japanese currency, perhaps by printing yen or bulking up on purchases of assets like Japanese government bonds. Still, the target might be difficult to achieve, given the economy's weakness, he said.

"With such a big export economy, the yen has massive significance on how the local economy performs," Shamu said.

Japan's exporters, whose fortunes are linked to the yen's valuation, were buoyed by the prospect of a changing of the guard. Mazda Motor Corp. soared 7.1 percent. Nissan Motor Co. jumped 5.1 percent. Nikon Corp. surged 7.2 percent and Canon Inc. gained 5.8 percent.

In Australia, Whitehaven Coal fell 1.8 percent after announcing it would scale back some operations due to the decline in global coal prices.

In the U.S., investors were dealt dual blows Thursday: worse-than-expected revenue from global retailing giant Wal-Mart and data showing that manufacturing weakened in the Philadelphia and New York regions, reflecting damage from Superstorm Sandy.

Wal-Mart, Ross Stores and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret, also disappointed investors by issuing profit forecasts that fell short of expectations.

Benchmark oil for December delivery was up 13 cents to $85.58 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 87 cents to close at $85.45 a barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the dollar weakened to 80.98 yen from 81.21 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro fell to $1.2748 from $1.2773.

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

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