World stocks drop amid unwelcome drop in Japan CPI

BANGKOK (AP) - World stock markets fell on Friday after Japan faced an unwelcome drop in consumer prices.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo slipped from a five-year high after Japan's consumer price index fell 0.9 per cent in March from a year earlier. The result flies in the face of efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December vowing to reverse a long bout of deflation, or falling prices, which has crippled economic growth.

The Nikkei, which in the morning hit its highest intraday level in five years at 13,983.87, fell 0.3 per cent to close at 13,884.13.

In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.3 per cent to 6,423.25. Germany's DAX shed 0.3 per cent to 7,812.62. France's CAC-40 lost 0.7 per cent to 3,815.24. Wall Street also appeared headed for losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures falling 0.2 percent to 14,627. S&P 500 futures were down 0.3 per cent to 1,577.50.

Later Friday, the US Commerce Department will release economic growth figures for the first three months of 2013.

"A solid GDP figure out of the US should give markets a boost," said Mr Daniel Martin of Capital Economics in Singapore.

He said he expected the data to show that the world's No. 1 economy grew at an annual rate of 3.2 per cent. That would be a sharp improvement from the anaemic 0.4 per cent growth rate reported for the final quarter of the year.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7 per cent to 22,547.71. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.1 per cent to 5,097.50. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.4 per cent at 1,944.56. Benchmarks in mainland China and India fell.

Wall Street closed higher Thursday after the US government reported the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits dropped last week by 16,000, suggesting that companies are cutting fewer jobs and that the US may be headed for an uptick in job growth.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 62 cents to US$93.02 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose US$2.21 to close at US$93.64 on the Nymex on Thursday.