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As Ukraine tensions ease, Asian stocks edge up

TOKYO/HONG KONG -- A sense of relief over the easing of tensions between Russia and Ukraine lifted Asian stocks Wednesday, but failed to sustain gains for European markets which were boosted the day before.

Better sentiment rushed through global markets after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said his country was not seeking to escalate the conflict with Ukraine, whose Crimean peninsula is occupied by Russian troops.

Brtain's FTSE 100 dipped 0.2 percent in early trading to 6,807.60 and Germany's DAX lost 0.4 percent to 9,547.02. The CAC-40 in France was down 0.1 percent to 4,392.25.

Dow Jones industrials and S&P 500 futures were little changed.

Stock markets in Europe, including in Moscow and Asia, already recouped a large chunk of Monday's losses on Tuesday, while gold and oil have given back some of their gains.

Regional traders are also focusing on the National People's Congress in China. The country's leaders pledged Wednesday to promote sustainable growth by opening state-dominated industries to private investment and making banks more market-oriented while keeping this year's economic expansion at a relatively robust 7.5 percent.

The figure is below the 7.7 percent growth seen in 2013 and 2012 — which was the worst rate since 1999.

The economic growth estimate is closely watched for insight into the leadership's thinking about the economy and how they expect it to perform.

The “around 7.5 percent” goal came after soft recent economic data, with a key manufacturing index slipping to an eight-month low in February.

The gains in Asian markets came after Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine's eastern border to return to their bases.

The mood was further bolstered when Putin said the situation in Ukrainian region of Crimea did not require military action. He said the recent military moves in Crimea that have effectively seen Russia take control of the peninsula were a humanitarian response, and that use of force would be a last resort.

In Asia, markets mostly rose Wednesday, following a global rally on easing fears about Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin played down the prospect of war.

Shanghai and Hong Kong edged lower as China's leaders tempered expectations for the world's number two economy this year with a modest forecast for expansion.

Shanghai ended 0.89 percent lower, giving up 18.39 points to 2,053.08, and Hong Kong lost 0.34 percent, or 77.85 points, to close at 22,579.78.

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