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Asia stocks mixed on China data, Europe drifts

MUMBAI, India - Asian stock markets were mixed as investors waited to see if weak Chinese economic data might prompt new economic stimulus. European shares drifted down.

Japan's Nikkei gained 1 percent to 14,622.89 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.2 percent to 21,834.45. China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.8 percent to 2,046.59.

Australia's S&P/ASX lost 0.5 percent at 5,350.10. Markets in Southeast Asia were little changed.

India's Sensex reached another new high Thursday, up 0.8 percent to 22,272.97 amid optimism that elections beginning next month would usher in a new, business-friendly government after two years of anemic economic growth.

Asian sentiment appeared to be drifting as investors were unsure whether the recent trend of weak manufacturing in China represented bad news or good news because it might lead to new stimulus measures from Beijing.

"We expect the recent trend of weak Chinese data to continue, but it will likely have a limited impact on overall market sentiment," Credit Agricole's chief market strategist Herve Goulletquer said in a commentary.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was up 0.2 percent at 9,428.29 in early trading. France's CAC 40 slipped 0.3 percent to 4,373.91 and Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent to 6,572.85.

The varied trading followed losses on Wall Street the previous day. However, U.S. shares seemed ready for a rebound Thursday. S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 percent at 1,845.40. Dow futures rose 0.2 percent to 16,216.

Benchmark crude for May delivery was down 14 cents at $100.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.07 to close at $100.26 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 102.13 Japanese yen from 101.98 late Wednesday. The euro inched down to $1.3767 from $1.3784.

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