World stock markets subdued ahead of holiday, Nikkei flat as investors lock in profits

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HONG KONG – World stocks were subdued Thursday ahead of a long weekend for many markets, with Japan’s Nikkei faltering as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.

Profit taking set in following a sharp rise in Tokyo the day before and as comments from the country’s central bank governor left investors unimpressed.

Other regional benchmarks were unable to find direction as disappointing first-quarter earnings reports from IBM and Google after the U.S. closing bell offset supportive comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who said the central bank would continue to provide stimulus for the job market.

Trading was thin in some Asian markets including Hong Kong and Australia and across Europe ahead of a long weekend.

European stocks mostly drifted lower in early trading, with Britain’s FTSE 100 down 0.2 per cent to 6,573.14. Germany’s DAX dipped 0.1 per cent to 9,312.33. France’s CAC 40 edged up less than 0.1 per cent to 4,406.85.

U.S. stocks were poised to open lower. Dow futures lost 0.2 per cent to 16,295.00 and broader S&P 500 futures slipped 0.2 per cent to 1,849.30.

Asian stocks ended the day mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index recouped earlier losses to close unchanged at 14,362.94 after rising 3 per cent on Wednesday.

Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in a speech that the bank would make adjustments as needed to its ultra-loose monetary policy, and he reiterated his confidence that the policy is having the desired effect of stimulating the economy, according to Kyodo news agency.

South Korea’s Kospi also ended little changed at 1,992.05. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.3 per cent to 22,760.24 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6 per cent to 5,454.20. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.3 per cent to 2,098.88.

In energy trading, benchmark crude oil for May delivery was up 7 cents to $103.83. The contract rose 1 cent to settle at $103.76 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar slipped to 102.01 yen from 102.22 in late trading Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.3844 from $1.3820.

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