World Stocks Mostly Lower Tuesday

HONG KONG (AP) -- World stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday as geopolitical tensions over the situation on the Korean Peninsula and uncertainty over France's upcoming presidential election weighed on investor sentiment.

KEEPING SCORE: European benchmarks opened lower after the Easter holiday. Britain's FTSE 100 sank 1 percent to 7,255.27, France's CAC 40 lost 0.8 percent to 5,030.42 and Germany's DAX shed 0.3 percent to 12,073.65. Wall Street was poised to open lower. Dow futures dipped 0.1 percent to 20,542.00 and broader S&P 500 futures fell 0.2 percent to 2,341.10.

FRANCE'S VOTE: With Sunday's first-round vote approaching, polls don't give a clear edge to any of the four leading candidates, who include the far right's Marine Le Pen, the far-left's Jean-Luc Melenchon, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon. The top two candidates advance to a May 7 runoff and investors are unsettled by the chance that either of the extreme candidates could pull off a surprise victory.

MARKET INSIGHT: "If we get a Macron/Fillon second-round runoff, this is likely to be considered market friendly, triggering a rally in the euro" and European stocks, said Kathleen Brooks, research director at City Index.

NORTH KOREA: China's foreign minister issued a fresh appeal for calm on Tuesday after tensions escalated over North Korea's focus on developing missiles and nuclear weapons, including its latest failed missile launch. Wang Yi said he believes the United States prefers a diplomatic solution to the standoff, including multi-sided talks. His remarks follow a war of words between North Korea and the U.S., including remarks by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's warning that U.S. "strategic patience" is over. But Pence's arrival in Tokyo on Tuesday shifts his attention from geopolitics to economic issues.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index added 0.4 percent to 18,418.59, while South Korea's Kospi reversed early losses to edge up 0.1 percent to 2,148.46. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.4 percent to 23,924.54 and the Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.9 percent to 3,196.71. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.9 percent to 5,836.70. Shares in Taiwan and Southeast Asia were higher.

DELAYED REACTION: Hong Kong and Australian markets were getting their first chance to react to China's latest economic growth data, released on Monday, when they were closed for the Easter holiday. The latest figures showed an uptick in growth for the world's No. 2 economy, paradoxically displeasing investors who predict it means less chance of financial stimulus. Australian shares were also dragged down by weakening prices for iron ore and other commodities.

ENERGY: Oil prices retreated. Benchmark U.S. crude futures fell 23 cents to $52.41 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 53 cents, or 1 percent, to settle at $52.65 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 16 cents to $55.20 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 108.88 yen from 108.90 in late trading Monday. The euro strengthened to $1.0652 from $1.0643.

(KA)