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China growth report boosts world stocks

TOKYO - European stocks advanced Wednesday after China's economic growth picked up slightly in the second quarter but Asian markets were lukewarm about the data that largely fitted expectations.

The world's second-largest economy expanded 7.5 percent over a year earlier in the April-June quarter, picking up slightly from 7.4 percent growth in the first quarter, and suggesting the government's mini-stimulus measures had helped to offset a housing slowdown.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.9 percent to 6,770.58 and the CAC-40 in France surged 1.4 percent to 4,363.72. Germany's DAX rose 1.2 percent to 9,835.02.

Wall Street was poised for gains. Dow futures added 0.3 percent to 17,040 and S&P 500 futures gained 0.3 percent to 1,973.30.

Communist leaders in China have been trying to boost domestic consumption to drive the economy as its longstanding engines of exports and industrial investment lose momentum. They have acknowledged that growth won't return to the double-digit rates experienced for much of the preceding decade. Their growth target for this year is 7.5 percent.

"The results were merely in line with expectations. There was relief but nothing was new," said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, head of the investment information department at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo.

The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, was little changed at 15,379.30, closing down 0.1 percent after zigzagging in a short range throughout the day.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 23,523.28 while Seoul's Kospi inched up 0.04 percent to 2,013.48.

China's Shanghai Composite reversed earlier gains to fall 0.2 percent to 2,067.28 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.1 percent to 5,518.90.

Other Asian stock markets were mostly higher, including shares in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.

What will the Fed do next?

In Tuesday's trading, markets drifted as U.S. Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen did not deviate too much from previous comments and following some lackluster U.S. retail sales figures.

The main focus had been on Yellen, who was delivering her half-yearly testimony to Congress. She largely stuck to her previous script telling lawmakers that the Fed intends to keep providing significant support to the U.S. economy to boost growth and improve labor market conditions.

"Too many Americans remain unemployed; inflation remains below our longer-run objective; and not all of the necessary financial reform initiatives have been completed," she said in remarks before the Senate Banking Committee in the Fed's semi-annual report on monetary policy. She will testify before a House committee on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro slipped to $1.3538 from $1.3571 late Tuesday. The dollar was little changed at 101.69 yen.

Benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was up 80 cents at $100.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.