World stock markets falter as Greece jitters offset China central bank action

Energy Associated Press

Global stock markets faltered Thursday as the European standoff over Greece's international bailout intensified, tempering optimism from China's latest move to boost its economy.

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KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX lost 0.4 percent to 10,864.02 and Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.6 percent at 6,817.21. France's CAC 40 shed 0.8 percent to 4,661.24. But futures pointed to gains on Wall Street. Dow futures were up 0.2 percent at 17,601. S&P 500 futures rose 0.2 percent to 2,034.50.

EUROPE PRESSURE: Greece's new left-wing government is insisting it will stick to its anti-austerity agenda, hours after the European Central Bank tightened the screws on Athens by withdrawing a key borrowing option for the country's banks. Late Wednesday, the ECB said it would stop allowing Greek banks to borrow from it cheaply using Greece's junk-rated government bonds as collateral, as prospects for a new deal with bailout creditors appear uncertain. The move, ahead of Thursday's key talks in Berlin between the Greek and German finance ministers, increases pressure on Athens to compromise with its creditors.

CHINA FACTOR: China's move to boost lending was a positive factor for markets. China late Wednesday cut the minimum level of reserves its banks are required to hold in a new move to reverse a deepening economic slowdown. The reduction will make more money available for lending and support small and rural enterprises, construction projects and other activity, the People's Bank of China said.

THE QUOTE: "China's latest easing efforts have been greeted by mixed reactions across global markets. Perhaps this is to do with the latest headline risk on the Greece front," said IG strategist Stan Shamu in a commentary. "The euphoria with which investors have greeted (Chinese central bank) action in the past certainly seems to have worn off."

ASIA SCORECARD: The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, dipped 1 percent to 17,504.62. The Kospi in South Korea was down 0.5 percent to 1,952.84. But the Hang Seng in Hong Kong edged up 0.4 percent to 24,765.49. Southeast Asian benchmarks were mostly lower. Mainland Chinese shares also fell. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.5 percent to 5,811.

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SOARING SONY: Sony shares jumped 12 percent in Tokyo after the Japanese electronics and entertainment company lowered its loss projection for the fiscal year late Wednesday, and said it expected the hack at its movie division to have minimal impact in the long run.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was back below $50 a barrel after its rebound fizzled out. The contract was down 70 cents at $47.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It plunged $4.60, or 8.7 percent, to settle at $48.45 a barrel in the previous trading session after the U.S. government reported an increase in crude inventories last week. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 47 cents at $53.69 in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1377 from $1.1341 late Wednesday. The dollar gained to 117.32 yen from 117.27 yen.

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