World shares mixed as central banks, China-US talks in focus

By ELAINE KURTENBACH Features Associated Press

Shares meandered in slow trading Wednesday in Europe after a day of gains for most Asian stock benchmarks as investors turned their focus to Japan and EU central bank policy meetings and China-U.S. economic talks in Washington.

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KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 7,390.86 and the CAC 40 of France gained 0.1 percent to 5,177.63. Germany's DAX lost 0.1 percent to 12,422.19. Wall Street looked set for a tepid start, with S&P 500 futures up 0.03 percent while Dow futures fell 0.04 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index edged 0.1 percent higher to 20,020.86 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.6 percent to 26,672.16. The S&P ASX 200 in Australia jumped 0.8 percent to 5,732.10, while the Shanghai Composite index added 1.4 percent to 3,230.98. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,429.94. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

CENTRAL BANKS: European Central Bank head Mario Draghi is expected to tread softly on Thursday as the European Union's 19-country euro currency union monetary authority inches toward scaling back its monetary stimulus in the form of 60 billion euros ($69 billion) in monthly bond purchases. Japan's central bank, likewise, is not expected to make any drastic moves, given recent subdued data on inflation and consumer sentiment.

CHINA-US: Top economic officials of the world's two biggest economies meet Wednesday in Washington for the first session of the China-U.S. Comprehensive Dialogue. The outcome of the talks will likely provide a sense of the direction relations will take as President Donald Trump seeks to deliver on promises to reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

ANALYST COMMENT: "With a lack of tier-1 data in the day, the market could find eyes shifting to the rebranded U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue today," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. "It has been interesting to note that the U.S. had once again exerted pressure ahead of the meeting highlighting expectations and the market is expected to keep a keen eye on the event."

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CURRENCIES: The dollar, which has steadily lost ground most of this year, was flat at 112.07. The euro slipped to $1.1531 from $1.1543. It hasn't been this strong compared to the dollar since early 2015.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 8 cents to $46.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 38 cents to $46.40 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 14 cents to $48.98 per barrel. It rose 42 cents to $48.84 a barrel in London.