World stock markets drift as oil extends plunge while Chinese trade improves

EnergyAssociated Press

Global stock markets drifted Tuesday as oil extended its slide, falling below $45 a barrel, while better-than-expected Chinese trade figures countered recent gloom over the slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.

KEEPING SCORE: In early European trading, France's CAC 40 was up 0.1 percent to 4,229.89 and Germany's DAX added 0.1 percent to 9,796.23. Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent to 6,501.90. U.S. stocks were poised to open higher. Dow futures climbed 0.2 percent to 17,600 and broader S&P 500 futures gained 0.2 percent to 2,025.70.

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CHINA TRADE: Customs data showed that Chinese exports grew 9.7 percent in December over a year earlier, while imports shrank 2.4 percent. The results were better than analysts had forecast and may hint at the recovery in store for China's exporting industries as U.S. demand continues to recover. The news gave a bigger lift to stocks in Hong Kong than Shanghai, where there may be less room for the index to rise after a spectacular surge late last year.

ANALYST TAKE: "Although it stops slightly short of a return to the double digit growth rates seen earlier in 2014, today's data mean China's export sector remains one of the world's best performing," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics.

ENERGY: Oil prices approached six year lows a day after Goldman Sachs slashed its forecast for prices in 2015. U.S. crude was down $1.45 to $44.62 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed $2.29 lower to settle at $46.07 a barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price oil sold internationally, lost $1.62 to 47.08.

ASIA'S DAY: Benchmarks were mixed across the region, with Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropping 0.6 percent to end at 17,087.71. South Korea's Kospi edged 0.2 percent lower to 1,917.14. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent to 24,215.97 and the Shanghai Composite Index crept up 0.2 percent to 3,235.30. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3 percent to 5,404.70.

TOKYO TOLL: Tokyo stocks fell as investors got their first chance since last week to react to global events, including the continued tumble in oil prices, as the exchange reopened following a holiday. Investors were also factoring in some short term gloom after the government, according a Kyodo report on Monday, cut its growth forecast for the 2014 fiscal year, which ends in March, to 0.5 percent, although it raised its 2015 forecast to 1.5 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened slightly to 118.28 yen from 118.30 in late trading Monday. The euro edged lower to $1.1825 from $1.1828.