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Markets flat-footed ahead of run of economic data

By Pan Pylas

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2013 7:13 a.m. MDT

Visitors to Tokyo Stock Exchange watch a real time stock price update board in Tokyo, Thursday Nov. 24, 2011.

Junji Kurokawa, Associated Press

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LONDON — Financial markets were flat-footed Monday ahead of a run of economic data and corporate earnings statements, particularly out of the U.S. Oil was the standout mover as the benchmark rate fell below $100 a barrel for the first time since early July.

Now that a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling has been agreed, investors can move on and focus on other matters, such as the underlying health of the global economy and when the Federal Reserve will start reducing its monetary stimulus.

During the partial U.S. government shutdown of recent weeks, much of the U.S. economic data was postponed. With the government now functioning fully, many of those data reports will be released over the coming days, including September's nonfarm payrolls figures. That's due on Tuesday and could provide investors a steer as to when the Fed will start reducing its $85 billion-worth of monthly asset purchases.

Until the U.S. debt crisis this month, most investors thought the Fed's so-called "tapering" of its stimulus program would start by December. Many now think it won't start until Janet Yellen takes the chair in early 2013.

In addition, investors will be monitoring the next batch of earnings, particularly out of the U.S. On tap Monday are quarterly updates from the likes of Halliburton, McDonald's and Netflix.

"In total this week will see almost 30 percent of the S&P 500 reporting figures, more than enough to keep traders busy," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.2 percent at 6,637 while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 8,853. The CAC-40 in France was 0.3 percent lower at 4,273.

Wall Street was poised for a flat opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures 0.1 percent higher.

Earlier, Asian markets were fairly buoyant after Friday's solid session in the U.S., where stocks were boosted by unexpectedly strong profits from General Electric Co., Morgan Stanley and other companies. Google surged nearly 14 percent, topping $1,000 a share for the first time.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 percent to 14,693.57 while China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index added 1.6 percent to 2,229.24. Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney also rose.

Elsewhere, trading was lackluster. In the currency markets, the euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.3677 — on Friday, the euro rose above $1.37 for the first time since February, largely because of the dollar's weakness in the wake of the debt ceiling crisis.

In the oil markets, a barrel of benchmark New York crude was down 94 cents at $99.87 a barrel.

"The ample and rising supply of oil, combined with weaker demand growth prospects, point towards lower prices in the months ahead," said Fawad Razaqzada, a technical analyst at GFT Global Markets.

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