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World markets diffident as Fed looms large

MANILA, Philippines - World stock markets put in a patchy performance Wednesday, with Japan suffering a sharp fall, as investors continued to worry the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon start reducing its monetary stimulus.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 2.2 percent to 15,407.94, pulling back from Tuesday's rise and levels that were the index's highest in about six months.

European benchmarks made modest gains and U.S. stock futures were up slightly, auguring possible gains on Wall Street.

Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia said traders and economists are looking to employment figures Wednesday from payrolls company ADP for indications about the strength of hiring ahead of the official U.S. employment report due Friday.

Whether the Fed starts reducing its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases will likely hinge on Friday's report. The Fed's stimulus has shored up global stock markets over the past few years. So-called "tapering" of that stimulus could work the opposite way, even though it would be predicated on an improving U.S. economy.

Britain's FTSE 100 was nearly flat at 6,532.88. Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent at 9,238.87 and France's CAC-40 climbed 0.3 percent at 4,185.77.

Dow Jones Industrial futures were up 0.2 percent and S&P 500 futures rose 0.1 percent.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.8 percent to 23,728.70 and South Korea's Kospi slid 1.1 percent to 1,986.80. Benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines also fell.

But China's Shanghai Composite added 1.3 percent to 2,251.76 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 5,273.75.

In energy markets, benchmark crude for January delivery was up $1.32 to $97.36 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract climbed $2.22 to close at $96.04 on Tuesday.

The euro fell to $1.3577 from $1.3582 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 102.76 yen from 102.56 yen.

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