World stocks fall ahead of crucial week for Greece

Axel Schmidt/dapd

(AP) HONG KONG - World stocks markets fluctuated in lackluster trading Monday, as investors remained cautious ahead of a crucial week for Greek leaders as they try to show European partners that progress is being made in implementing reforms and austerity measures.

In early European trading, the FTSE-100 index of leading British companies edged 0.1 percent lower to 5,849.71 while Germany's DAX was up 0.2 percent at 7,053.61. France's CAC-40 was up 0.2 percent at 3,493.93.

U.S. stocks were poised to edge higher. Dow futures were up less than 0.1 percent to 13,250.00 while broader S&P futures were up 0.1 percent to 1,416.30.

Asian markets drifted lower, lacking direction in the absence of major economic data out this week in Asia and the summer lull.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.1 percent to close at 9,171.16 while South Korea's Kospi was practically unchanged to end at 1,946.31. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 20,104.27.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.1 percent at 4,364.30. Taiwan's benchmark fell while New Zealand's rose. Markets in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines were closed for holidays.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.4 percent to close at 2,106.96, the lowest level since early 2009 as investors continue to be cautious about the world's second largest economy amid mounting signs of a slowdown. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.3 percent to 879.25. Agriculture, biotechnology and food companies led gains while insurance, real estate and engineering companies dropped.

A report over the weekend that property prices in July rose slightly indicated the property market was benefiting from recent interest rate cuts, analysts said. But investors were still downbeat about prospects for further big stimulus measures, which are often announced on weekends or holidays.

"Every weekend investors are expecting the (Chinese) central government would throw out polices and every Monday comes in and there are no policies," said Jackson Wong, a vice president at Tanrich Securities. "That disappoints investors in general."

Poly Real Estate, China's second-largest listed developer, lost 3 percent while industry leader China Vanke, lost 1.3 percent.

Investors this week are also watching Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' visit to Germany and France, where he is expected to ask for an extension on Greece's deadline to meet fiscal targets as it carries out painful reforms.

A senior German politician said over the weekend that Greece doesn't have any wiggle room, darkening investors' mood over Europe's simmering debt crisis. There's also little chance of Germany's governing coalition supporting a third rescue package, Volker Kauder, a senior ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying.

Among individual stocks, Japan's embattled electronics maker Sharp Corp. plunged 5.4 percent. Hong Kong-listed Lenovo Group lost 2.6 percent.

Crude oil futures were up 6 cents to $96.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 41 cents to finish at $96.01 per barrel in New York on Friday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2353 from $1.2322 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 79.51 yen from 79.55 yen.

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