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May 30, 2017

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Stocks subdued as China data, Ukraine weighed

TOKYO/HONG KONG -- Global stock markets were subdued Friday, with investors weighing a fall in Chinese inflation and renewed jitters about Ukraine as pro-Russian militants pressed ahead with plans for an independence referendum.

China's inflation eased in April to 1.8 percent in a mixed message for investors. The drop in inflation gives Beijing more leeway to stimulate the slowing Chinese economy if needed, but also underlines that domestic demand is weak.

Ukraine continued to loom large for investors. Insurgents in the country's east are preparing for a weekend referendum on independence, a vote similar to the plebiscite that paved the way for Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March. Preparations have continued despite a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin to put off the vote amid negotiations with the West over Ukraine's future.

European shares opened lower, with Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.4 percent to 6,811.88. France's CAC-40 dropped 0.6 percent to 4,481.60 and Germany's DAX shed 0.4 percent to 9,573.68.

Futures augured another drop on Wall Street. Dow and S&P 500 futures were both down 0.1 percent. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite lost 0.40 percent, or 16.18 points, to 4,051.50.

Trade was heavy in Twitter, which rebounded 3.7 percent after two days of sharp selling sparked by the end of a blackout period for pre-IPO investors to sell their shares.

Trading in Asian markets was mixed.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average gained 0.3 percent to 14,199.59. Investors are waiting for more earnings reports, with Nissan and Sony due to release results next week.

Shuji Hosoi, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities Co. in Tokyo, said investors were satisfied that Toyota's results, released Thursday, were strong, with the world's top automaker reporting record profit for the last fiscal year.

But he said there was little other market-driving news to trade on, leaving share prices in a stalemate.

"People are relieved about Toyota, but that's not enough for a major rally."

Sydney slipped 0.29 percent, or 16.0 points, to end at 5,460.8, while bargain-hunting saw Seoul close up 0.31 percent, 5.95 points, at 1,956.55.

Hong Kong rose 0.12 percent, or 25.87 points, to 21,862.99 while Shanghai slipped 0.20 percent, or 4.13 points, to 2,011.14.

Gold fetched 1,289.14 an ounce at 10.45 GMT, down from US$1,295.34 on Thursday.

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