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Stocks mostly higher, Japan shrugs off GDP drop

MUMBAI/HONG KONG--Global stock markets overcame a contraction in Japan's economy and jitters about Ukraine and Iraq to mostly rise Wednesday, but analysts said new geopolitical developments would likely make for volatile trading.

Germany's DAX added 0.8 percent to 9,142.83 and France's CAC-40 rose 0.6 percent to 4,187.69. Britain's FTSE 100 was steady at 6,631.61. Futures pointed to a move higher on Wall Street. Dow Jones futures rose 0.3 percent to 16,568 and S&P 500 futures gained 0.4 percent to 1,937.70.

Asian shares were mixed Wednesday as downbeat data from China and Japan sparked renewed concerns for growth in the region's two biggest economies.

Tokyo shrugged off early losses to close 0.35 percent, or 52.32 points, higher at 15,213.63, despite data which showed the Japanese economy contracted sharply in the latest quarter as a sales tax increase slammed the breaks on household spending.

Shanghai ended flat at 2,222.88 and Hong Kong closed up 0.81 percent, or 200.93 points, at 24,890.34 as new statistics showed key indicators including industrial production slowed in July.

Seoul gained 1.02 percent, or 20.89 points, to 2,062.36 but Sydney eased 0.28 percent, or 15.62 points, to 5,514.7.

Minutes before the opening bell, Tokyo announced that the world's number three economy shrank by 1.7 percent in the April-June quarter — which translated into a 6.8 percent drop on an annualized basis.

A string of disappointing Chinese data further weighed on market sentiment.

China's bank lending plunged to 385.2 billion yuan (US$62.5 billion) in July, a dramatic decline from June's 1.08 trillion yuan as the weakening property sector hit demand for loans.

China also released figures for industrial output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment that were in line with expectations but slightly slower from the previous month's data.

Key US Retail Sales Due

Investors were also cautiously eyeing geopolitical tensions in Ukraine as a convoy of 262 Russian trucks headed towards the border. Kiev vowed to block the aid mission from its territory over fears it was a ploy to bolster pro-Kremlin rebels.

The United States and European Union have already imposed an array of sanctions on Russia in response to what they see as Moscow's military support for rebels in Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.06 percent to 16,560.54 on Tuesday as new data showed investment sentiment in Germany, the eurozone's biggest economy, was taking a hit from the crisis over Russia and Ukraine.

The widely watched investor confidence index calculated by the ZEW economic institute fell 18.5 points to 8.6 points in August, its lowest level since December 2012.

Investors were also focused on key U.S. retail sales data due later Wednesday, which will shed light on consumer sentiment in the world's top economy.

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