Global stocks sluggish as China, US in focus

BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks were mostly lower Tuesday amid jitters about China's housing market and a surprise drop in a key measure of U.S. consumer confidence.

Markets were earlier rattled by a deceleration in Chinese housing price increases in January and weakness in the currency, which has long been a one-way bet on slow steady appreciation. Investor sentiment was further shaken by the U.S. Conference Board's report showing consumer confidence fell slightly more than expected in February. That suggests consumer spending — the driver of growth in the world's largest economy — may slow, though analysts say the report may be overstating the case.

"Overall, we aren't too concerned about the tiny decline in confidence," said Amna Asaf, economist at Capital Economics. In Europe, Germany's DAX's fell 0.1 percent to close at 9,699.35 while France's CAC-40 dropped the same rate to 4,414.55. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.5 percent to 6,830.50.

Wall Street was steady, with both the Dow and the broader S&P 500 unchanged on the day in early trading. In Asia, China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.1 percent to 2,034.62. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 22,317.81. Singapore and Sydney also declined. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index gained 1.4 percent to 15,051.60,.

Seoul's Kospi gained 0.8 percent and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent. Benchmark U.S. oil for April delivery was down $1.32 to $101.50 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 62 cents on Monday to close at $102.82.

In currency markets, the euro was little changed at $1.3749 from $1.3736 late Monday. The dollar fell to 102.21 yen from 102.50 yen.

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