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Ukraine tension paralyzes stocks

BEIJING/ HONG KONG--World stocks were kept in check Tuesday as improvement in U.S. service industries competed with concern about renewed fighting in Ukraine.

In Europe, Germany's DAX declined 0.1 percent to 9,517.72 while the CAC-40 in France shed 0.1 percent to 4,458.27. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 6,809.91.

On Wall Street, The Dow edged up 0.11 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.19 percent and the Nasdaq was 0.34 percent higher. U.S. markets rose Monday after the Institute for Supply Management's index for services industries that are a crucial driver of U.S. growth rose to 55.2 in April from March's 53.1. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

It was the highest reading since last July and better than the 54.0 figure expected by analysts. A number above 50 indicates expansion in the sector, which accounts for the bulk of US economic activity.

However, events in Eastern Europe are keeping traders on edge.

Fighting intensified between government forces and pro-Moscow secessionists on Monday, with Ukraine's military suffering heavy casualties and Russia warning that violence was endangering peace in Europe.

Ukraine's interior ministry said pro-Russian gunmen controlling the town of Slavyansk were using civilians as human shields and shooting from houses, some of which were ablaze.

Diplomats scrambled to ease the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offering himself as a personal go-between.

Speaking exclusively to AFP in Abu Dhabi, Ban offered “to provide my own role if necessary” before the crisis “spins out of control and creates huge consequences beyond anybody's control.”

European leaders, fearing all-out civil war on their eastern flank, have also launched a new peace bid, urging Ukraine and Russia to find a negotiated solution.

Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday following a pick-up on Wall Street. Sydney gained 0.35 percent, or 19.2 points, to close at 5,481.4.While Shanghai ended flat, edging up 0.69 points to 2,028.04.

Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul were shut for public holidays.

Gold fetched US$1,307.94 at 1046 GMT compared with US$1,308.83 on Monday.

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, May 5.

(AFP)

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