Global Stocks Mixed in Choppy Trade

TOKYO (AP) -- Global shares were mixed in choppy trading Thursday after a report showed evidence that inflation in the United States was cooling, even if it remains too high.

France's CAC 40 gained 0.6% in early trading to 7,407.78. Germany's DAX edged up 0.1% to 15,918.15. Britain's FTSE 100 was little changed at 7,743.42. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow futures up 0.1% at 33,637.00. S&P 500 futures rose 0.3% to 4,165.50.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 finished little changed, inching up less than 0.1% at 29,126.72. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped less than 0.1% to 7,251.90. South Korea's Kospi sank 0.2% to 2,491.00. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost nearly 0.1% to 19,743.79, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.3% to 3,309.55.

Concerns about the Chinese economy remain a major focus, especially for the Asian region, with the latest cause for worry coming from trade data released Tuesday.

"China could be heading into a deflationary funk similar to the one that Japan is starting to emerge from," said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

The Fed has jacked up rates at a furious pace in hopes of driving down inflation. But high rates do that by slowing the entire economy and hitting investment prices broadly. They've already sent stock prices tumbling, caused turmoil in the banking system and dragged on the economy enough that many investors expect a recession to hit this year.

Following the report, traders upped the probability they see of the Fed holding rates steady in June to nearly 94%, according to data from CME Group.

Markets are also watching for what the Bank of England might do on interest rates later in the day.

"The Bank of England is expected to raise its interest rate by 25bp when it meets today, but it will certainly leave the door open for further hikes," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

Inflation in the U.S. still remains way above the Fed's 2% target and continues to squeeze households across the economy, particularly those with the lowest incomes.

The majority of companies in the S&P 500 have topped profit forecasts so far this reporting season, which is approaching its final stretch. But they're still on pace to report an overall drop in earnings from a year earlier, which would be the second straight quarter that's happened.

Besides worries about interest rates and inflation, some corners of the bond market are also swinging on concerns about the U.S. government inching closer to a possible default on its debt. That's never happened before, and economists warn a default could be catastrophic for the economy and financial markets.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude rose 83 cents to $73.39 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, added 90 cents to $77.31 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar was little changed at 134.72 Japanese yen, up slightly from 134.28 yen. The euro cost $1.0928, down from $1.0984.