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European stocks lower on weak Chinese data

By Colleen Barry

Associated Press

Published: Friday, April 13 2012 4:55 a.m. MDT

A man talking on a mobile phone walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan, Friday, April 13, 2012. Asian shares shrugged off China's slowing growth Friday, rallying after U.S. markets rose and North Korea's rocket launch failed to do much more than explode shortly after takeoff. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 climbed 113.20 points, or 1.19 percent, to 9,637.99.

Itsuo Inouye, Associated Press

MILAN — European stocks slipped Friday on weak Chinese economic data and persistent tensions in eurozone debt markets, while Asian markets were buoyed by a botched North Korean missle test.

Concerns about the prospects for global groth remained the market focus after official data in China showed its economy grew at an 8.1 percent pace in January-March, its slowest in nearly three years.

Although Asian investors brushed off the news on hopes the country would provide more economic stimulus, European markets gave it more weight. As the world's largest exporter, China is a bellwhether for global economic growth, which European countries desperately need to heal their public finances.

France's CAC-40 dropped 1.1 percent to 3,233.49, while Germany's DAX shed 0.99 percent to 6,676.32. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 0.57 percent to 5,677.95.

"Unimpressive macro newsflow continued, which has kept concerns about global economic prospects at the forefront of the market's mindset," Credit Agricole analysts said.

Helping to weigh on European stocks was continued pressure in bond markets, with yields on Spanish debt inching higher, a sign of investor unease over the country's financial future.

U.S. stocks were also poised to fall on the open. Dow futures were down 0.4 percent to 12,904 while the broader S&P 500 futures fell 0.4 percent to 1,381.10.

In Asia, markets mostly closed higher as traders were reassured by news that a North Korean rocket exploded soon after takeoff. South Korea's Kospi jumped 1.1 percent to 2,008.91.

Tensions had risen as North Korea pushed ahead with the launch despite protests from the U.S., South Korea and other countries that deemed it a test of missile technology. Pyongyang said it was to put into orbit a satellite commemorating the anniversary of its founder's birth.

Mainland Chinese shares were higher as regional investors saw the GDP figures as proof that the economy would avoid a brusk slowdown and that authorities might clear further measures to boost growth. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.3 percent to 2,359.16. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index added 0.6 percent to 950.91.

"The GDP data is within earlier expectations and both policy and the economy are stable. Even if the slowdown is obvious, growth is still above the government's target," said Li Jianfeng, an analyst at Caida Securities, based in Shanghai. The government's annual growth target is 7.5 percent.

Overall, there was a sense of confidence that China is managing to steer the economy into a slower growth track without veering toward a 'hard landing.'

"Chinese policymakers likely are neither as asleep at the wheel nor as paralyzed by political indecision as global investors seem recently to be fearing," Michael Kurtz of Nomura in Hong Kong said in a report.

In currency markets, the euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.3154 and the dollar inched up to 80.94 Japanese yen.

Concerns persist that high energy prices — driven in part by unrest in the Middle East — could weigh on any economic recovery. Benchmark oil was down 45 cents to $103.19 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose by 94 cents to finish at $103.64 on Thursday.

Elaine Kurtenbach and Fu Ting in Shanghai and Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.