World stocks weighed down by US earnings

AP Business Writer

HONG KONG (AP) - World markets struggled on Thursday amid disappointing earnings results in the U.S. and as investors became reluctant to chase stocks to new highs.

Although investment bank Goldman Sachs said its profits fell less than expected, Citigroup disappointed analyst forecasts. Best Buy, the electronics chain, was faring worst, with its stock plunging 27 percent after it said its sales unexpectedly fell over the winter holiday period.

U.S. economic data failed to help. A report showed the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 2,000 last week, a sign that layoffs are weighing less on the labor market. While that is positive for the economy, it would also support the view that the Federal Reserve might continue withdrawing stimulus in coming months.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent to close at 6,815.42. France's CAC 40 dropped 0.3 percent to 4,319.27, while Germany's DAX lost 0.2 percent to 9,717.71.

On Wall Street, the Dow was down 0.5 percent at 16,397.55, while the broader S&P 500 shed 0.3 percent to 1,843.26 a day after closing at a record high.

"The markets are very well owned, they're at very high levels relative to last year and previous years, that's across the board," said Benjamin Collett of Sunrise Brokers.

Asia markets mostly closed lower after they failed to sustain gains earlier in the day.

Japan's Nikkei 225 swung into negative territory as the dollar's early rally against the Japanese yen faded. The index retreated 0.4 percent to close at 15,747.20.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.4 percent to end at 22,986.41, and South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,957.32. Australia's S&P ASX 200 jumped 1.2 percent. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index was roughly unchanged, while the smaller Shenzhen composite index dipped 0.1 percent.

In currencies, the dollar edged down 0.3 percent to 104.25 yen while the euro dipped 0.1 percent to $1.3600.

In energy markets, benchmark crude for February delivery was down 15 cents to $94.02 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.58 to settle at 94.17 on Wednesday.

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