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World markets drift ahead of US data next week, continued worry over Ukraine crisis

MUMBAI, India - European stock markets were down Friday, while Asian markets took cheer from U.S. unemployment claims falling to an eight-year low. Traders were generally cautious at the end of the week, taking a wait-and-see attitude before another set of U.S. indicators due in coming days, including second quarter GDP.

In London, the FTSE 100 index slipped 0.1 per cent to 6,812.27 while Germany's DAX fell 0.3 per cent to 9,766.57. The CAC-40 in France dropped 0.7 per cent to 4,377.80.

Futures indicated caution would prevail on Wall Street, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both down 0.1 per cent.

Investors have been on edge since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed last week over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists, killing all 298 people onboard. That has raised the possibility of aggressive sanctions against Russia, a major energy producer with close economic ties to Europe.

"The U.S. accusing Russia of planning to arm the separatist movement could keep risk assets contained, notably ahead of the weekend," said Chris Weston, a market strategist at IG Group.

Many traders are waiting for U.S. economic data due next week.

Weston said that the estimate of U.S. second-quarter GDP, due Wednesday, would show the world's largest economy picking up to growth of 2.9 per cent. A meeting of the Federal Reserve is set for the same day and inflation numbers are due Thursday.

Earlier in Asia, positive sentiment was partially fueled by favourable U.S. jobs data indicating that the world's largest economy is continuing to recover. U.S. unemployment claims fell to an eight-year low, declining by 19,000 to 284,000. An improvement in China's manufacturing reported the day before also continued to bolster Asian stocks markets.

Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 1.1 per cent to 15,457.87 and South Korea's Kospi was up 0.4 per cent to 2,033.85. China's Shanghai Composite added 1 per cent to 2,226.78 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 per cent to 24,247.20.

Other Asian markets were lacklustre. India's Sensex was down 0.8 per cent at 26,064.77 after weeks of hitting new highs. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 per cent to 5,583.50.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude oil for September delivery was down 6 cents to $102.01 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.05 to $102.07 on Thursday.

The euro inched down to $1.3449 from $1.3465 late Thursday. The dollar rose to 101.92 yen from 101.77 yen.

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