World Stocks Sink Friday

HONG KONG (AP) -- World stock markets sank Friday as investors evaluated the latest set of corporate earnings and awaited a slew of U.S. and Chinese economic data.

KEEPING SCORE: European benchmarks fell in early trading, with France's CAC 40 dropping 0.5 percent to 4,274.11 while Germany's DAX shed 0.6 percent to 9,819.61. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.5 percent to 6,072.43. U.S. stocks were poised to open lower, with Dow futures retreating 0.4 percent to 17,591.00 and broader S&P 500 futures down 0.4 percent to 2,050.10.

GLOBAL OUTLOOK: Investors hope the latest batch of data from the world's two biggest economies will give them an idea where the global economy is headed and whether central bankers will need to raise or lower interest rates. Monthly U.S. figures for retail sales, business inventories and producer prices are due out later Friday, followed Saturday by Chinese fixed asset investment, industrial production and foreign direct investment. Also weighing on sentiment were volatile oil prices, which sank after hitting their highest level in half a year.

EARNINGS SEASON: Investors haven't found much to cheer about in the latest company earnings reports. Automaker Honda posted a first quarter loss of $860 million Friday because of currency fluctuations and expenses for a huge air-bag recall. U.S. retailers this week have also reported dismal results.

QUOTE: "Expect short-term share market volatility to remain high," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, said in a report. "Global growth remains fragile and uncertainty lingers around the Fed and China."

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 255 index lost 1.4 percent to close at 16,412.21 and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.5 percent to 1,966.99. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1 percent to 19,719.29 while the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China dipped 0.3 percent to 2,827.11. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 retreated 0.6 percent to 5,329.00. Benchmarks in India, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia and Thailand also lost ground.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell after hitting its highest price since early November. Oil futures slid 54 cents or 1.1 percent to $46.16 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 47 cents, or 1 percent, to $46.70 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, lost 33 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $47.75 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 108.72 yen from 108.99 in Thursday's trading. The euro slipped to $1.1354 from $1.1379.

(KA)