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Global stocks subdued as Japan data, Syria weigh

BANGKOK Global stock markets were subdued Friday after Japanese manufacturing undershot expectations and worries about Syria's civil war dampened investor spirits.

The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo shed morning gains after the government released figures that, while showing some strength, fell short. Manufacturing in the world's No. 3 economy rose 1.6 percent in July from a year earlier and 3.2 percent from the month before. While that pointed to an economic recovery, analysts had expected to see a 3.6 percent increase.

Still, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it foresaw further expansion in August and September.

"If these forecasts are realised, industrial production momentum will climb to new highs," analysts at Capital Economics said in a commentary.

The Nikkei in Tokyo fell 0.5 percent to close at 13,388.86. But gains were posted elsewhere in Asia. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 21,668.90. South Korea's Kospi gained 1 percent to 1,926.36. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.8 percent to 5,135.

In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent to 6,443.39. Germany's DAX was 0.9 lower at 8,125.11. France's CAC-40 shed 0.8 percent to 3,953.65.

Wall Street looked set for a sluggish open, with Dow Jones industrial futures falling less than 0.1 percent to 14,827 while S&P 500 futures were flat at 1,636.70.

Among individual stocks, Virgin Australia Holdings, the country's second-largest airline, fell 3.7 percent after posting an annual loss of 98 million Australian dollars ($88 million).

Energy companies fell as oil prices continued to retreat from a two-year high. Japanese energy explorer Inpex shed 2 percent.

On Thursday, lawmakers in the U.K. refrained from authorizing British participation in action against Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus killed more than 300 civilians earlier this month. The U.S. government is considering a response, although the White House says President Barack Obama hasn't decided on when and how big it might be.

That helped calm investor nerves, said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia.

"There's been a slight downgrade to Syria fears," Shamu said.

Benchmark oil for October delivery was down $1.20 to $107.60 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.30 to close at $108.80 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3240 from $1.3237 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 98.05 from 98.32 yen.

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