Asia and EU Markets Slip Thursday

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian and European markets slipped Thursday as investors digested the latest Fed minutes while geopolitical concerns overshadowed sentiment after U.S. President Donald Trump struck a defiant tone on the Middle East conflict.

KEEPING SCORE: European shares were slightly lower in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 dipped less than 0.1 percent to 7,254.84 and France's CAC 40 edged 0.1 percent lower to 5,271.32. Germany's DAX crept 0.1 percent lower to 12,283.68. Wall Street was poised for a flat open. Dow futures rose less than 0.1 percent to 12,283.87 and broader S&P 500 futures gained 0.1 percent to 2,643.50.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index dipped 0.1 percent to close at 21,660.28 while the Kospi in South Korea ended 0.1 percent lower at 2,442.71. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 30,831.28 and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China slid 0.8 percent to 3,180.16. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent to 5,815.50. Indexes in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia also lost ground but shares in Thailand and the Philippines rose.

FED MINUTES: At their most recent meeting in March, Federal Reserve policymakers said they felt the U.S. central bank might have to raise interest rates faster than expected to keep up with quickening economic growth and rising inflation that's coming close to their 2 percent target, according to the latest minutes. Officials otherwise stuck mainly to the same policy language they've used since they began raising rates in December 2015, gradually dialing back the extraordinarily loose monetary policy that had supported financial markets. Some analysts also noted that the meeting was held before recent U.S.-China trade tensions flared up, which could have prompted some officials to ease their views.

TRUMP TALKS TOUGH: In a tweet, Trump suggested that he wanted to retaliate against Russia after the recent suspected chemical attack in Syria. Separately, Saudi Arabia said it intercepted missiles fired by rebels in Yemen as well as drones that targeted an oil facility. The prospect of escalating conflict in the Middle East has sparked fears about tighter oil supplies, driving crude prices to their highest since December 2014.

MARKET INSIGHT: "Global equity markets are likely to remain firmly gripped by geopolitical risk, as escalating tensions over the conflict in Syria weigh heavily on sentiment," said Lukman Otunuga, an analyst at FXTM.

ENERGY: Oil futures eased after hitting a three-year high. Benchmark U.S. crude lost 28 cents to $66.54 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract climbed 2 percent to settle at $66.82 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 41 cents to $71.65 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 106.90 yen from 106.79 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.2337 from $1.2369.

(BE)