World markets cautious ahead of US, China data

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MUMBAI, India (AP) — World stock markets were muted Friday as investors turned cautious ahead of the release of a key U.S. employment report and Chinese economic indicators.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average gained 0.9 percent to 15,274.07 while South Korea's Kospi inched down 0.1 percent to 1,974.68. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 5,462.20.

European markets opened mostly down. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 4,410.34 and Germany's DAX was down 0.7 percent to 9,475.37. The CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.2 percent to 4,410.34.

Wall Street was poised for an uninspiring open, with Dow Jones and S&P 500 futures both little changed ahead of the February employment report due out later Friday. The payrolls data often set the market mood for a week or two.

Investors had been encouraged by a pause in the escalation of tensions in the Ukraine and by a meeting of China's top legislative body which pledged to advance Communist Party plans for promoting market forces and domestic consumption in Asia's economic engine.

However, a wait-and-see approach appeared to take hold ahead of Friday's release of the U.S. employment report. China is also expected to release trade and inflation data on the weekend.

"I wouldn't be surprised that some of the investors are taking a bit of money off the table ahead of the weekend's data that is due," said Lorraine Tan, director of equity research for Standard & Poor's in Singapore.

China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.1 percent to 2,154.35 and Taiwan's benchmark was flat at 8,713.96. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 22,660.49.

India's Sensex reached a new high on Friday, up 1.5 percent to 21,829.26 as investors cheered the announcement of elections beginning next month.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 26 cents to $101.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 11 cents to $101.56 on Thursday.

In currencies, the dollar weakened to 102.85 Japanese yen from 103.07 yen late Thursday. The euro rose to $1.3871 from $1.3866.

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