Global Stocks Mixed Ahead of US Data

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- European stock markets started weaker following gains on Asian markets on Thursday as investors awaited jobs data from the U.S. and the start of China's annual legislative session, where leaders of the world's second-largest economy will likely downgrade their growth forecast.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent to 6,150.98 and Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 9,764.71. France's CAC 40 declined 0.3 percent to 4,411.52. Futures augured a tepid start for Wall Street. Dow futures and S&P futures both stayed nearly unchanged.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "While this rally will inevitably have a pullback at some point, the forthcoming U.S. non-farms payroll, China's National Party Congress, ECB and BOJ meetings could all help support this rally in the near term," Angus Nicholson of IG said in a commentary. "Of course, the markets currently look like they are pricing good news in from all of them, so an upset from any one could throw the rally off."

CHINA: Chinese leaders were expected to lower their growth target during the upcoming gathering of the National People's Congress this week as China seeks more flexibility for structural reforms for the slowing, state-dominated economy. The growth target due to be announced on Saturday is expected to be a range of 6.5 to 7 percent, down from 2015's goal of about 7 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Asian markets closed mostly higher after solid U.S. jobs survey. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.3 percent to 16,960.16 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6 percent to 1,958.17. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index underperformed other benchmarks in the region, falling 0.3 percent to 19,941.76, while the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.4 percent to 2,859.76. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 1.2 percent to 5,081.10 and stocks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia also were higher.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 9 cents at $34.57 per barrel in New York. The contract rose 26 cents to close at $34.66 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude fell 20 cents at $36.73 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro weakened to $1.0868 from $1.0870 and the dollar rose to 113.96 yen from 113.61 yen.

(KA)