World stocks muted ahead of Yellen testimony

Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — World stock markets were muted Thursday as investors awaited cues from the Federal Reserve chief's testimony to lawmakers.

European shares got off to a lackluster start, with Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.1 percent at 6,793.63. Germany's DAX shed 0.3 percent to 9,628.93 and France's CAC 40 was little changed at 4,395.26.

Janet Yellen, the new head of the Federal Reserve, appears before the U.S. Senate's Banking Committee later Thursday. Stocks jumped on Feb. 11 when Yellen reassured Congress over the central bank's market-friendly, low-interest rate policies.

Futures pointed to gains on Wall Street. Dow and S&P 500 futures were both up 0.2 percent.

In Asia, shares were mixed.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.7 percent to 22,828.18 and Seoul's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 1,978.43. Markets in Southeast Asia were also mostly higher and China's Shanghai Composite added 0.3 percent to 2,047.35.

Markets in Greater China are consolidating as they watch for new policy initiatives from China's annual legislative session in early March, said Linus Yip, a strategist for First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

"Investors are still looking for some good news," Yip said. "The market needs structural reforms in mainland China."

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index edged 0.3 percent lower to 14,923.11. Shares in New Zealand and Australia also fell, with Australian shares coming under pressure from weakness in commodities and a decline in capital spending in the last quarter.

Japanese investors are watching for Friday's release of economic data for January, looking for signs of how a sales tax hike due to take effect April 1 might affect the country's recovery.

In currency dealings, the euro fell to $1.3653 from $1.3680 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 102.12 yen from 102.30 yen.

Oil prices edged lower, with benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery down 8 cents to $102.51 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 76 cents to settle Wednesday at $102.59.

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