World markets sag ahead of central bank meetings

TOKYO - Global stocks were mostly lower Thursday as markets waited for central bank meetings in Europe and Japan while remaining on edge about tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

The FTSE 100 in London slipped 0.3 percent to 6,618.59 in early trading. France's CAC 40 index was also lower, down 0.1 percent to 4,202.16. Germany's DAX was little changed. U.S. markets looked poised for gains. Dow futures were up 0.3 and S&P 500 futures added 0.4 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.5 percent to close at 15,232.37, a reversal from five straight sessions of losses, buoyed by a relatively weak yen that works as a plus for exporters. But other markets were down. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.3 percent to 2,054.51. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.8 percent to 24,387.56. Shares in Singapore Malaysia and Thailand were also down.

Markets are monitoring the meetings of central banks Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union, although policy changes are not expected. The Bank of Japan starts a two-day policy meeting ending Friday. Its super easy monetary policy has kept stock prices relatively high and the Japanese yen low, both a plus for the Japanese economy.

With stock market moves relatively subdued, players have their eyes on possible currency fluctuations. "The focus will be on European currencies later this evening. Both the Bank of England and European Central bank are likely to keep monetary policies unchanged when they hold their respective meetings tonight," said Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets Singapore.

There is evidence of a U.S. economic recovery, but players are also considering the prospect the Federal Reserve might raise its benchmark interest rate next year. On the political front, President Barack Obama has said that U.S. sanctions levied against Russia over its actions in Ukraine are working but that Washington would face a much different set of questions about how to respond if Moscow invaded Ukraine's east.

The dollar rose to 102.36 yen from 102.11 yen late Wednesday. The euro was at $1.3368 from $1.3382. Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery was down 6 cents to $96.86 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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