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Global stocks tepid ahead of ECB policy decision

BEIJING/HONG KONG--Global stocks were lackluster Thursday after a payroll processor said U.S. employers slowed hiring last month and investors looked ahead to a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting.

Oil declined but stayed above US$102 per barrel after U.S. government data showed a fall in stockpiles of crude and rising supplies of refined fuels.

In Europe, France's CAC-40 rose 0.1 percent to 4,505.12 and Germany's DAX was down 0.1 percent at 9,916.43. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 6,803.17.

Investors were waiting for Thursday's monthly meeting of the ECB following suggestions by bank president Mario Draghi of possible additional stimulus. That could include a rate cut or other measures to spur economic recovery and avoid deflation.

“It's time for the ECB to deliver,” said Credit Agricole CIB in a report.

Official data Tuesday showed eurozone inflation slowed to 0.5 percent in May, from 0.7 percent in April and far weaker than the ECB's target of just below 2.0 percent.

There is speculation that it could introduce a number of unconventional measures, such as lowering the deposit rate to negative levels and begin asset purchases similar to those carried out by the Fed.

Sentiment was largely negative after payroll processor ADP said U.S. businesses added just 179,000 workers to their payrolls. It was the weakest hiring in four months and came before the U.S. government's employment report for May due Friday.

“The ADP employment report was a big disappointment,” said DBS Group in a report. It said the “odds of an upside surprise” in the official U.S. employment data “look pretty slim.”

Asian shares were mixed on Thursday as investors brushed off another record close on Wall Street ahead of a European Central Bank policy meeting and the release of closely watched U.S. jobs data.

Tokyo pared most morning gains to end flat, edging up 11.41 points to 15,079.37, while Seoul fell 0.65 percent, or 13.08 points, to 1,995.48 and Sydney slid 0.15 percent, or 7.93 points, to close at 5,436.90.

Shanghai gained 0.79 percent, or 16.05 points, to 2,040.88 and Hong Kong slipped 0.18 percent, or 42.05 points, to 23,109.66.

U.S. shares ticked up on Wednesday after broadly upbeat data. The Institute for Supply Management said activity in the services sector, accounting for 80 percent of the U.S. economy, surged in May.

Also, the Federal Reserve's “Beige Book” report said all 12 districts of the country saw increasing economic activity in recent weeks. That compares with April's report, which showed two districts' activity decline.

The S&P 500 rose 0.18 percent to end at another record high, while the Dow edged up 0.07 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq gained 0.41 percent.

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