World stocks drift before new Shanghai trade zone

HONG KONG (AP) — World stocks drifted on Friday, with markets in China edging slightly higher as investors stayed cautious ahead of a major holiday and details from the highly anticipated unveiling of a free trade zone in Shanghai. Stocks in Tokyo slid after Japan’s inflation spiked.

In early European trading, the FTSE 100 index of leading British companies dropped 0.3 percent to 6,544.13 while Germany’s CAC 40 retreated 0.1 percent to 8,652.53. France’s CAC 40 dipped 0.1 percent to 4,181.34.

U.S stocks were poised to fall. Dow futures fell 0.1 percent to 15,241.00 while broader S&P 500 futures edge 0.2 percent lower to 1,688.50.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.3 percent to close at 23,207.04 while in mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.2 percent to 2,160.03.

Markets in China were subdued ahead of the launch Sunday of a pilot free trade zone in Shanghai.

“In China, investors and businessmen are awaiting the details of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone,” Frances Cheung, a strategist at Credit Agricole CIB, wrote in a research note.

China’s leaders have already loosened restrictions on foreign investment in the 29-square-kilometer (11.2-square-mile) zone. Further details are expected when the zone is inaugurated.

Cheung predicted that authorities would relax taxes, trade quotas and administrative red tape in the zone.

A weeklong holiday that starts Tuesday and follows another three-day holiday just last week was also expected to keep some investors on the sidelines.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 dipped 0.3 percent to 14,760.07 after the country’s consumer price inflation rose at the fastest rate in five years in August.

South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.2 percent to 2,011.80 while Australia’s S&P ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,307.10. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore also advanced but India’s dropped.

“People are cautious as we enter the last quarter and no point in taking a position with so many macro issues overhanging the market” such as a battle over the U.S. debt limit looming in October, said Andrew Sullivan, director of Asian sales trading at Kim Eng Securities.

In currencies, the euro strengthened to $1.3504 from $1.3490 in late trading Thursday. The dollar slipped to 98.64 yen from 99.00 yen.

In energy markets, benchmark oil for November delivery fell 44 cents to $102.59 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 37 cents to settle at $103.03 on Thursday.

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