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World stocks drop on China economy jitters

MANILA -- World stock markets mostly fell Monday after a slower increase in Chinese property prices added to jitters about the strength of the world's No. 2 economy.

In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.3 percent to 6,818.70 and Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent at 9,644.10. France's CAC-40 was little changed at 4,382.10.

Futures augured moderate gains on Wall Street. Dow and S&P 500 futures were both up 0.1 percent.

Asian stock markets lost ground on Monday, with investors little moved by the G-20's weekend commitment to boost global growth by US$2 trillion over five years.

After a weak lead from Wall Street Friday, markets were looking to a string of U.S. data in the week ahead for clues about the health of the world's largest economy, with figures due out on housing, consumer confidence and GDP growth.

In Tokyo the benchmark Nikkei-225 index fell 0.19 percent, or 27.99 points, to close at 14,837.68. Seoul lost 0.45 percent, or 8.78 points, to end at 1,949.05 and Sydney closed a marginal 0.03 percent, or 1.5 points, higher at 5,440.2.

Hong Kong shares fell 0.80 percent, or 179.68 points, to end at 22,388.56. On the Chinese mainland, shares extended losses on worries about possible tightening of credit to the property sector.

Shanghai dropped 1.75 percent, or 37.00 points, to close at 2,076.69. The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, narrowed earlier losses to close down 0.07 percent, or 0.82 points, at 1,134.19.

China's domestic banks have recently tightened lending to the real estate sector, state media said last week, although the four biggest state banks on Monday denied any such moves.

Official data released Monday also showed fewer cities, 62 out of 70 tracked, recorded month-on-month increases in new home prices in January, down from 65 in December.

Analysts said fears were overblown.

“The (property) market doesn't have any structural risks and the government wouldn't clamp down too tightly on an area so important for China's economy,” United Securities analyst Pei Xiaoyan told Dow Jones Newswires.

G-20 Targets Growth

The world's biggest economies vowed Sunday to boost global growth by more than US$2 trillion over five years, shifting their focus away from austerity as a fragile recovery takes hold.

The G-20 members said they aim to lift their collective GDP by more than two percentage points over the next five years.

US Stocks Dip

U.S. stocks finished last week with modest declines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.19 percent, or 29.93 points, to 16,103.30 on Friday.

The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 0.19 percent, or 3.53 points, to 1,836.25, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.10 percent or 4.13 points to 4,263.41.

Gold fetched US$1,333.44 an ounce at 1050 GMT, after striking US$1,332.45 late Friday, driven by strong Asian demand.

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