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Asia shares mixed as tensions in Ukraine trump US figures

HONG KONG--Asian markets were mixed Friday as the prospect of a military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia knocked confidence and offset forecast-beating U.S. growth data.

While the rise in geopolitical uncertainty prompted investors to buy lower-risk assets such as the yen, despite disappointing economic figures out of Tokyo, comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin helped to soothe some fears.

More economic reports are due later from the U.S. but jittery investors are watching the Ukraine conflict for signs of further escalation after the country's president reported that Russian forces had entered the country. “While a barrage of economic data is due for release tonight, the (U.S.) personal spending, inflation, wage, Chicago PMI and consumer sentiment data will likely be sidelined by developments out of Ukraine,” said Desmond Chua of CMC Markets.

Germany's DAX inched 0.2 percent higher to 9,478.67 and France's CAC-40 edged up 0.1 percent to 4,371.46. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent to 6,812.29. U.S. stocks were poised to open higher, with Dow futures rising 0.2 percent to 17,109.00. Broader S&P 500 futures added 0.2 percent to 2,000.90.

Tokyo slipped 0.23 percent, or 35.27 points, to finish at 15,424.59 and Seoul shed 0.35 percent, or 7.22 points, to 2,068.54, while Sydney was flat, edging up 1.49 points to 5,625.9.

Shanghai added 0.97 percent, or 21.38 points, to 2,217.20 and Hong Kong was flat, edging up 1.06 points to 24,742.06.

After enjoying a rally over the past few weeks, investors were spooked by claims that Russian forces were inside Ukraine helping support pro-Kremlin separatists who have been fighting against Kiev's rule since April.

NATO said at least 1,000 Russian troops were on the ground in the country, fuelling worries of a war.

Moscow denies the accusations but U.S. President Barack Obama said it was “plain for the world to see” that Russian forces were fighting in Ukraine. He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the actions “cannot remain without consequences”, raising the prospect of even more sanctions against Moscow.

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