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Markets mixed as deals counter Ukraine gloom

TOKYO/HONG KONG -- Financial markets were mixed Monday, pushed higher in Europe by recent merger and acquisition activity, though Asian investors were wary of deepening troubles in Ukraine and financial indicators due later in the week.

Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.3 percent to 6,711.11 in early trading, while Germany's DAX climbed 0.6 percent to 6,711.11. France's CAC also added 0.6 percent, to 4,468.76.

U.S. shares looked set to rebound from sharp losses last Friday. Dow Jones industrials futures were up 0.4 percent and S&P futures gained 0.3 percent.

The U.S. was preparing to levy fresh sanctions against Russia for Moscow's failure to uphold terms of an agreement with the U.S., the European Union and Ukraine that calls for Moscow to withdraw Russian forces from the border with Ukraine and encourage pro-Russian separatists to turn over buildings they're occupying in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, pro-Russian militants turned to kidnapping, taking dozens hostage, including journalists, pro-Ukraine activists and European military observers.

“The Ukrainian tensions are once again mounting and the word coming from Capitol Hill and also Europe is that sanctions on Russian officials will be harder, more direct and onerous on President Putin's inner circle; this will disrupt normal trading conditions,” Melbourne, Australia-based IG market strategic Evan Lucas said in a trading note.

Worried investors have been shifting from riskier assets into traditional havens like bonds, gold and mainstay equities like utilities, sapping markets of their earlier upward momentum.

Adding to the geopolitical uncertainties is a slew of end-of-month data due this week from Japan, the U.S. and China.

Asian markets were mostly lower Monday following a negative lead from Wall Street, while tensions in Ukraine added to selling pressure.

Traders were awaiting the release later in the week of global manufacturing data as well as earnings reports from Japan, while the U.S. Federal Reserve is also due to hold its latest policy meeting.

Tokyo slipped 0.98 percent, or 141.03 points, to 14,288.23, Seoul lost 0.12 percent, or 2.40 points, to close at 1,969.26 and Shanghai tumbled 1.62 percent, or 33.03 points, to 2,003.49. Hong Kong eased 0.41 percent, or 91.00 points, to 22,132.53

But Sydney ended a touch higher, adding 5.1 points to 5,536.1.

U.S. shares sank on Friday, led by the tech-rich Nasdaq, after a disappointing earnings report from Amazon. The face-off in Ukraine also hurt buying sentiment.

The Dow fell 0.85 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.81 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq tumbled 1.75 percent

In Washington the Fed will hold its two-day policy meeting. It is expected further to cut its stimulus program following a string of figures showing the world's number one economy is improving.

Gold fetched US$1,301.45 an ounce at 1141 GMT compared with US$1,300.55 on Friday.

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