TOKYO - Global stock markets were lackluster Thursday as investors looked ahead to a European Central Bank meeting and U.S. economic data. Declines were tempered by an easing of tensions over Ukraine.
European trading was cautious. The CAC-40 in Paris edged down 0.4 percent to 4,403.99. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent at 6,883.85. Germany's DAX shed 0.6 percent to 9,568.62. Wall Street was set for muted trading. Dow futures slipped 0.05 percent to 17,064 and S&P 500 futures were almost unchanged at 1,998.70.
The focus of traders is turning to economic data and policy announcements later Thursday. The European Central Bank announces the outcome of its policy meeting and holds a press conference; there are hopes of additional stimulus as Europe's economy continues to flag. Among the U.S. data due is an update on services activity and an employment report from payrolls processor ADP that precedes Friday's official monthly employment report. The Bank of Japan ended its policy board meeting and kept its easy monetary policies unchanged.
Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 15,676.18 while South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 2,056.26. Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched down 0.1 percent to 25,297.92. Markets in Southeast Asia were mostly down, while China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8 percent to 2,306.86.
Shares of Samsung Electronics rose 2 percent in Seoul after it unveiled new products in Germany last night including the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note 4 Edge. The Edge created most buzz with a screen that wraps around one edge of the device allowing information to be displayed while the main screen is dark.
With earnings reports now over, market attention is now turning to possible action from the U.S. Federal Reserve completely withdrawing its extraordinary stimulus measures later this year. Many players are taking a wait-and-see attitude. "The hesitation from investors is likely to increase downside risk in the short term as lower volumes trading through the market can lead to increased volatility," says Chay Flack, equities dealer at CMC Markets in Sydney.
Russia and Ukraine said Wednesday they are working on a deal to halt months of fighting in eastern Ukraine, but Western leaders expressed skepticism, noting it wasn't the first attempt to end the deadly conflict.
The dollar appeared to pause from its recent upward swing, trading at 104.84 yen, down from 105.04 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.3146 from $1.3152.
Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery was down 81 cents to $94.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.