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World markets drift as central bank cues awaited

TOKYO - World markets drifted Wednesday as investors watched for cues from central banks and Thailand's market stabilized a day after the country's military declared martial law.

European trading got off to a tepid start, with Britain's FTSE 100 little changed at 6,798.49. France's CAC 30 was slightly higher at 4,453.93 and Germany's DAX was up 0.2 percent at 9,662.53.

U.S. markets looked set to reverse the losses driven by lackluster earnings from retailers the day before. Dow Jones and S&P 500 futures were both up 0.3 percent.

Investors were holding back from major moves ahead of the release later Wednesday of minutes from recent policy meetings by the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of England. But figures showing Japan's trade deficit narrowed in April helped push the Japanese yen higher.

The yen move and the Bank of Japan's decision Wednesday to refrain from extra stimulus to counter weaker demand following a sales tax hike pulled the Nikkei 225 stock index 0.2 percent lower to 14,042.17.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 2,008.33. But Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.8 percent to close at 22,836.52 after yo-yoing throughout the day.

A recovery in the Chinese currency-denominated "A-shares" market in Shanghai was driving the rebound, said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8 percent to 2,024.95.

"That brought up the whole technology sector and changed some sentiment to positive," Wong said. "Whenever A-shares rebound a lot of people think the central government might roll out policies to help the markets, even though it's almost always speculation."

Jitters over Thailand's political crisis appeared to subside a day after the military declared martial law in what it called an attempt to stabilize the country's precarious political situation. The SET index in Bangkok was up 0.7 percent to 1,404.23.

Elsewhere in Asia, shares fell in Singapore, the Philippines, India, New Zealand and Taiwan, but edged higher in Australia and Indonesia.

Benchmark crude for July delivery was up 84 cents to $103.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 22 cents to $102.33 on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3712 from $1.3701 late Tuesday. The dollar fell to 100.91 yen from 101.26 yen.

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