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Tech jitters, Ukraine crisis weigh on world stocks

TOKYO/HONG KONG--Jitters over the valuations of technology companies pulled stock prices lower from Tokyo to London on Wednesday.

European shares got off to lackluster start, with Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.3 percent to 6,776.65. Germany's DAX edged down 0.1 percent to 9,458.63 and the CAC-40 in France slipped 0.1 percent to 4,422.77.

U.S. markets were poised for a slow start after sharp declines the day before, with both Dow Jones and S&P 500 futures little changed.

Sinking Internet company shares, led by an 18 percent plunge in Twitter's share price Tuesday, added to negative sentiment from tensions in Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants are clashing with military forces in the country's unstable east.

Asian markets fell on Wednesday with a stronger yen sending Tokyo tumbling after a long weekend, while a sell-off on Wall Street and tensions in Ukraine added to downward pressure.

Investors are awaiting the congressional testimony of U.S. Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen later in the day to see if she gives any clues about the state of the economy.

Tokyo — which was closed on Monday and Tuesday for holidays — ended 2.93 percent lower, giving up 424.06 points to 14,033.45 and Sydney slipped 0.83 percent, or 45.6 points, to 5,435.8.

Seoul fell 1.00 percent, or 19.56 points, to 1,939.88, while Shanghai dropped 0.89 percent, or 17.96 points, to 2,010.08 and Hong Kong sank 1.05 percent, or 230.07 points, to 21,746.26.

The Dow sank 0.78 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.90 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq lost 1.38 percent.

Analysts said that despite Friday's better-than-expected jump in new jobs for April, investors feared there was still underlying weakness in the economy.

Events in Eastern Europe are also fueling bearishness.

Russia has rejected a plan to end the escalating crisis in Ukraine, where several cities in the east have been taken over by pro-Moscow rebels, against whom the Western-back government has launched a military offensive.

As President Vladimir Putin prepares to meet the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kiev said that the death toll from an assault on a rebel-held flashpoint town had climbed to more than 34, increasing fears of a civil war.

The West, which is threatening to broaden sanctions on Russia over the unrest, sees a May 25 presidential poll in Ukraine as crucial to hauling the country back from the brink.

Eyes are now on Yellen's statement at a Senate hearing of the Joint Economic Committee later in the day, looking for a steer on the US economic outlook and the bank's plans for its stimulus programme.

Gold fetched US$1,311.59 at 1040 GMT compared with US$1,307.94 on Tuesday.

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