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World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking

HONG KONG--World stocks were subdued Thursday ahead of a long weekend for many markets, with Japan's Nikkei faltering as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.

Profit taking set in following a sharp rise in Tokyo the day before and as comments from the country's central bank governor left investors unimpressed.

Other regional benchmarks were unable to find direction as disappointing first-quarter earnings reports from IBM and Google after the U.S. closing bell offset supportive comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who said the central bank would continue to provide stimulus for the job market.

Trading was thin in some Asian markets including Hong Kong and Australia and across Europe ahead of a long weekend.

European stocks mostly drifted lower in early trading, with Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.2 percent to 6,573.14.

Germany's DAX dipped 0.1 percent to 9,312.33. France's CAC 40 edged up less than 0.1 percent to 4,406.85.

U.S. stocks were poised to open lower. Dow futures lost 0.2 percent to 16,295.00 and broader S&P 500 futures slipped 0.2 percent to 1,849.30.

Asian stocks ended the day mixed.

Stock Markets Across Asia End Up Flat

Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in a speech that the bank would make adjustments as needed to its ultra-loose monetary policy, and he reiterated his confidence that the policy is having the desired effect of stimulating the economy, according to Kyodo news agency.

South Korea's Kospi ended little changed at 1,992.05.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.3 percent to 22,760.24 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6 percent to 5,454.20.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.3 percent to 2,098.88.

Asian markets were mixed Thursday as a positive report on the U.S. economy and the Federal Reserve chief's pledge to keep interest rates at record lows were offset by profit-taking after the previous day's gains.

Wall Street provided another positive lead, with the technology-weighted Nasdaq leading a third-straight rally after last week's heavy sell-off.

Tokyo, which surged more than three percent on Wednesday, gave up morning gains to end flat, dipping 0.15 points to 14,417.53,

China Data, Fed Beige Book Boost Economic Hopes

Regional shares enjoyed buying on Wednesday after China released data showing its economy expanded more than expected in the first three months of the year.

In the United States the Fed said in its closely watched Beige Book report that the U.S. economy was showing clear signs of picking up again after being caught by a severe winter freeze that jolted spending and jobs growth.

“Economic activity increased in most regions” of the country from mid-February through to early April, it said, with “modest or moderate” expansion in most of the Fed regions surveyed.

Wall Street was cheered by the news. The Dow rose 1.00 percent and the S&P 500 surged 1.05 percent.

The Nasdaq — which was hammered last week on fears tech stocks may be overvalued — jumped 1.29 percent, with further help from a strong earnings report from Yahoo.

Gold fetched US$1,298.62 an ounce at 1045 GMT, from US$1,303.30 late Wednesday.

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