Sep 24, 2014 9:05 AM

Stocks drift as investors eye China, Europe data

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) Stock markets edged higher Wednesday, stabilizing after the previous day's losses on Wall Street. Investors were weighing stronger Chinese manufacturing data against Europe's economic malaise and heightened geopolitical risks after the U.S. and Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group's headquarters in Syria.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX edged up 0.2 percent to 9,614.43 while France's CAC 40 was up 0.6 percent at 4,384.63. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 6,679.02. Futures pointed to mild gains on Wall Street after sliding Tuesday. Dow and S&P 500 futures both gained 0.2 percent.

THE QUOTE: "Bulls and bears continue to play a game of cat and mouse, with the bulls looking for a floor in the recent sell-off while the bears consider adding to shorts," said IG market strategist Stan Shamu.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average shed 0.2 percent to 16,167.45 while Seoul's Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 2,035.64. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.4 percent to 23,921.61. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.7 percent to 5.375.80. China's Shanghai Composite jumped 1.5 percent to 2,343.57. Southeast Asia markets mostly rose.

CHINA FACTORIES: Asian stocks were still supported by a report released Tuesday showing China's manufacturing unexpectedly improved in September. According to a survey of businesses, new orders and exports increased at a faster rate, although employment fell. Overall, the report helped ease jitters about a deeper slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.

EUROPE STAGNATES: The Ifo business confidence index in Germany, Europe's largest economy, dropped for a fifth month in September. The drop in the index published Wednesday was larger than expected and confirms Europe's economy remains weak. The day before, a closely watched gauge of business activity for the region fell to a nine-month low. The eurozone economy has been flat or barely growing since April, hobbled by the lingering effects of a debt crisis, uncertainty over a conflict in Ukraine and a lack of confidence among consumers, businesses and banks.

SYRIA: Along with bad economic news, investors had geopolitical concerns to worry about. The U.S. and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group's headquarters in eastern Syria in nighttime raids Tuesday. U.S. aircraft as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from Navy ships in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf were used. "Geopolitical risk, which has been simmering in the background, is back to the fore" said CMC analyst Desmond Chua. "Helping to limit losses in the equity markets, however, was the continual outperformance of economic indicators, with US manufacturing activity clocking a four-year high," he said. "Better-than-expected Chinese factory day also alleviated concerns that the second largest economy was facing a slowdown."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 14 cents at $91.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

CURRENCIES: The euro slid to $1.2829 from $1.2841 late Tuesday. The dollar dropped to 108.63 yen from 108.80 yen.


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