World markets capped by earnings disappointment

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — World markets struggled to rise on Friday as weak corporate earnings results made investors cautious of chasing stocks to new highs.

A string of companies reported disappointing earnings figures, including oil company Shell, delivery service UPS and General Electric. Morgan Stanley saw its profit fall as well, though not as much as analysts had feared.

Economic data failed to pick up sentiment, with official figures showing a dip in U.S. home construction in December but a rise in industrial production.

After Asian indexes mostly closed lower, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent to close at 6,829.30. Germany's DAX gained 0.3 percent to 9,742.96, while France's CAC-40 edged up 0.2 percent to 4,327.50.

On Wall Street, the Dow was up 0.3 percent at 16,462 but the S&P 500 dropped 0.1 percent to 1,844.21, drawing it further from the record closing high it touched this week.

Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia, said the recent record set by the S&P was making investors reconsider their appetite for stocks.

"Investors will get a little bit nervous at high levels," he said. "They'd really like to see the earnings come out just to back up the theory that the U.S. markets are on the mend."

Earlier, Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 0.1 percent lower at 15,734.46. China's Shanghai Composite index sank 0.9 percent to 2,004.95, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6 percent to 23,133.35 after slipping in early trading.

Australia's S&P ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent, South Korea's Kospi was down 0.7 percent, while most Southeast Asian markets finished higher.

Benchmark crude for February delivery rose 31 cents to $94.27 in electronic trading on the New York Merchantile Exchange. The contract fell 21 cents to settle at $93.96 on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro fell 0.4 percent against the dollar, to $1.3559, while the U.S. currency shed 0.1 percent against the Japanese yen, at 104.28 yen.

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