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Asian stock trading muffled by Wall Street fade

BANGKOK/HONG KONG--Subdued trading reigned in world stock markets Wednesday after the S&P 500's failure to punch through its recent record high for a second day instilled investors with caution.

There was little economic or corporate news, which put Wall Street's lack of momentum into focus.

Germany's DAX was off 0.2 percent at 9,683.91 and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.3 percent to 4,401.56. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent to 6,803.20.

Futures pointed to moderate gains on Wall Street, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both up 0.2 percent.

Asia's markets mostly rose on Wednesday as investors brushed off a weak batch of data from the United States, while the dollar edged up against the yen.

Tokyo dived more than one percent at the open on a stronger yen. But the market later picked up, in line with a greenback revival, and by the end of trade the Nikkei was 0.54 percent, or 80.63 points, lower at 14,970.97.

Seoul rose 0.30 percent, or 5.91 points, to 1,970.77 and Sydney closed flat, edging up 3.2 points to 5,427.0.

Shanghai added 0.35 percent, or 7.04 points, to 2,041.25, following recent losses caused by liquidity fears and concern about possible moves to rein in property prices.

Hong Kong ended up 0.54 percent, or 120.24 points, at 22,437.44.

With no market-moving news expected in Asia until the weekend, eyes are on the United States, where investors reacted badly to downbeat housing and consumer data.

The Case-Shiller index for home prices in 20 leading US cities fell 0.1 percent in December, the second straight decline, while the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 78.1 in February from 79.4 in January.

On Wall Street the Dow slipped 0.17 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.13 percent and the Nasdaq lost 0.13 percent.

The government will release its latest estimate for October-December growth Friday. Economists hope the figure will give them a better handle on the state of the economy.

Investors are now awaiting Thursday's testimony by Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen to senators on the economy and bank policy, which was delayed due to the bad weather.

Her testimony to the House of Representatives two weeks ago revealed little, but showed the Fed was confident in its forecasts for growth this year despite a soft December and January.

“The (Senate) speech would normally be the same as the one given to the House... but the delay may elicit a rewrite. That would provide a substantial clue to where the Fed sits,” National Australia Bank said in a note.

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