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Asian stock markets drift, Europe trading little changed after lacklustre US retail sales data

TOKYO – Global stocks drifted Thursday after weak retail sales figures suggested the U.S. economy is struggling to maintain growth momentum and as bond markets remained volatile.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 was up 0.2 per cent at 4,973.68 and Germany’s DAX added 0.2 per cent to 11,376.87. Britain’s FTSE 100 was barely changed at 6,950.61. But futures augured a strong start on Wall Street. Dow futures were up 0.4 per cent at 18,088.00. S&P 500 futures rose 0.4 per cent to 2,103.30.

U.S. DATA: Weighing on investor sentiment was a relatively pessimistic report on U.S. retail sales released Wednesday, which set off worries about the momentum of growth in the world’s biggest economy. The Commerce Department’s latest monthly report showed retail sales were essentially flat in April, falling short of Wall Street forecasts.

The QUOTE: “Global equities continue to consolidate as the volatility in bond markets forces investors to exercise caution,” said IG strategist Stan Shamu in a commentary. “While the headlines were centred on a disappointing April retail sales reading, the sell-off in bonds continued through European and US trade.” Bond yields rise as prices fall, which could push up borrowing costs and drag on economic activity.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dropped 1 per cent to close at 19,570.24. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.3 per cent to 5,696.60. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.1 per cent to 27,286.55 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3 per cent to 2,120.33. China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.1 per cent to 4,378.31.

CURRENCIES: The weak U.S. data set off a dollar sell-off. The euro rose to $1.1401 from $1.1242 in the previous trading session. The dollar fell to 119.25 yen from 119.85 yen.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil was down 33 cents at $60.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 25 cents to close at $60.50 in New York floor trading. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 4 cents at $67.23 a barrel in London.

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