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Asian shares falter after Wall Street's retreat

LONDON/HONG KONG--European stock markets edged higher on Friday in low-volume trade, aided by upbeat Spanish unemployment figures, but gains were capped after sharp losses elsewhere following more weak data from China.

In late morning deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading companies rose just 0.08 percent to 6,723.52 points.

In Paris, the CAC 40 climbed 0.45 percent to 4,246.51 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 index added 0.08 percent to 9,407.45 compared with the closing level on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Italy's FTSE Mib rose 1.01 percent to 19,120.15 points.

Spain's IBEX 35 index meanwhile gained 0.63 percent to 9,820.90 points, after the eurozone nation announced a sharp contraction in jobless queues in December.

The news offered a glimmer of New Year hope for the 4.7 million people still registered as unemployed in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.

All three main markets sank Thursday as investors reacted to poor data and took profits on the first trading day of 2014.

Markets were spooked on Friday by figures showing growth in the China mainland non-manufacturing sector slowed sharply in December from November. The sector covers services including, among others, retail, aviation, software and real estate.

The data came on the heels of Thursday's news that China's manufacturing sector had seen an easing of activity last month.

Wall Street had kicked off the new year in the red on Thursday, falling decisively in a sell-off that analysts chalked up to profit taking following solid gains in 2013.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.82 percent to 16,441.35 points, as investors appeared to take the first day of trading of 2014 as an opportunity to rebalance portfolios after markets surged last year.

Later in the day in the United States, the Institute for Supply Management said U.S. manufacturing sector growth slowed slightly in December but remained robust.

There was a slight uptick in the eurozone PMI, although that was offset by ongoing weakness in France.

In Asia, markets slipped Friday after Wall Street's three main indexes began the new year in the red on profit-taking following a solid 2013, while Hong Kong and Shanghai were hit by weak Chinese services sector data.

Sydney eased 0.33 percent, or 17.8 points, to 5,350.1 and Seoul fell 1.07 percent, or 21.05 points, to close at 1,946.14.

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