Asian stocks mostly higher, Europe muted

Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — European stocks were muted but Asian markets mostly gained Friday after China's inflation was steady in January, leaving its government room to stimulate the economy if a slowdown worsens.

In Europe, trade was lackluster ahead of the release of fourth quarter growth figures.

Britain's FTSE 100 index eased 0.1 percent to 6,653.75 and the CAC-40 in France fell 0.1 percent to 4,309.17. Germany's DAX rose 0.1 percent to 9,606.95.

DBS Group said the combined economy of nations that use the euro likely grew year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2013, its first expansion after seven straight quarters of contraction. It said the eurozone economy likely contracted 0.5 percent for the full year, slightly better than a 0.6 percent decline in 2012.

Futures pointed to a weak start on Wall Street. Standard & Poor's 500 futures and Dow Jones futures shed 0.2 percent each.

In Asia, China's consumer prices rose 2.5 percent over a year earlier in January, unchanged from December's rate. The rise in politically sensitive food costs decelerated to 3.7 percent from December's 4.1 percent.

Lower inflation is one less distraction for communist leaders as they focus on carrying out ambitious promises of reforms aimed at making China's economy more productive and keeping incomes rising.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8 percent to 2,115.85 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6 percent to 22,298.41.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.7 percent to 1,940.28. But Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 1.5 percent to 14,313.03 as the yen strengthened against the dollar, a negative for share prices of exporters.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was down 50 cents at $99.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract eased 2 cents to close at $100.35 on Thursday.

In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3685 from $1.3676 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 101.97 yen from 102.34 yen.

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