Global Benchmarks Mostly Decline Amid China Worries

TOKYO (AP) -- Global shares mostly declined Thursday amid concerns about the impact of China's "zero-COVID" strategy mixed with hopes for economic activity and tourism returning to normal.

France's CAC 40 added 0.4% in early trading to 6,631.06. Germany's DAX rose 0.9% to 14,367.89. Britain's FTSE 100 sank 0.3% to 7,328.30. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow futures up 0.3% to 33,694.00. S&P 500 futures rose 0.4% to 3,984.50.

Benchmarks fell in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai, while gaining in Sydney. Oil prices fell.

Market watchers noted worries about how the Federal Reserve might not ease up on its aggressive interest rate hikes, which are aimed at curbing inflation pressures. Much of the market's prior rally on Wall Street was due to such hopes, including easing inflation.

"Markets are still unconvinced that the U.S. Fed will opt for lower magnitude rate hikes as incoming data sent mixed signals," said Venkateswaran Lavanya at Mizuho Bank.

U.S. retail data has shown improvement, while industrial production has dropped, highlighting the resilience of the service sector, as opposed to weakening external demand.

The Fed has been raising interest rates in an effort to slow the economy and tame the hottest inflation in decades. Wall Street has been worried it could hit the brakes too hard and bring on a recession.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 shed 0.4% to finish at 27,930.57. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2% to 7,135.70, after government data showed that the employment situation had improved in October from September.

South Korea's Kospi slipped 1.4% to 2,442.90. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.2% to 18,045.66, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.2% to 3,115.43.

China is maintaining its "zero-COVID" approach of mass testing many people alongside localized lockdowns and quarantines to eliminate the coronavirus entirely. Such restrictions have caused a supply crunch for some of Asia's biggest manufacturers, denting economic growth.

Elsewhere, the lifting of pandemic restrictions have fueled hopes of greater consumer spending and tourism revenue.

Japan marked a trade deficit for the 15th month in a row in October, as both imports and exports reached record highs amid the soaring costs of energy and food and a drooping yen, according to government data released Thursday.

The deficit, at 2.16 trillion yen ($15 billion), was the highest for the month of October since comparable data was first compiled in 1979, and came despite a solid growth in exports, which rose 25.3% last month to 9 trillion yen ($64 billion) from a year ago. Among the products boosting exports were vehicles, medical products and electrical machinery, according to the ministry.

The latest U.S. government report on retail sales for October shows that consumer spending remains strong, though it's unclear whether that's because of more purchases or higher prices.

Strong consumer spending is typically a good sign for the economy, but it could make the Fed's strategy of cooling the economy more difficult.

Also hanging over market sentiments, especially the energy sector, is the war in Ukraine. Any worsening could cause spikes in prices for oil, gas and other commodities that the region produces.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude lost 42 cents to $85.17 a barrel. U.S. crude oil prices initially rose, before settling 1.5% lower Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 11 cents to $92.75 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched down to 138.98 Japanese yen from 139.51 yen. The euro cost $1.0394, down from $1.0396.