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Global growth fears creep into financial markets

(AP) LONDON - Global financial markets drifted lower Monday as investors' growing concerns about the state of the global economy offset any remaining optimism over central banks' stimulus efforts.

Stocks have risen in recent weeks as the U.S. Federal Reserve and monetary authorities in other major economies announced measures to support economic activity. The European Central Bank unveiled a new plan to restore investor confidence in the government finances of the 17-country eurozone.

The latest indicators, however, suggest the global economy is still slowing down and will take some time to recover.

On Monday, Germany's Ifo index of business confidence fell for a fifth consecutive month, evidence that even the continent's largest and so far strongest economy is suffering headwinds.

"The reality of weak growth and underlying structural tensions is coming back to haunt markets," said Mitul Kotecha, strategist at Credit Agricole CIB.

By late morning in Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British companies fell 0.6 percent to 5,818.09 and France's CAC 40 dropped 1.3 percent to 3,484.89. Germany's DAX shed 0.7 percent to 7397.37.

Wall Street was poised to fall on the open - Dow futures were down 0.4 percent to 13,450 while the broader S&P 500 futures dropped 0.5 percent to 1,444.90. Asian markets closed lower.

Looking ahead, Europe's debt crisis will remain a point of focus for investors. Spain is due to unveil a new series of cost-cutting measures and structural reforms that could pave the way for a demand for financial aid from its fellow eurozone countries.

Spanish stock and bond markets have been volatile in recent days as hopes that Madrid will apply for the aid alternated with concern that it was delaying the move.

On Friday, the country will also release a final estimate of the financing needs of its weakest banks. The figures will help the government determine how much of an existing 100 billion euro ($130 billion) eurozone rescue loan - earmarked for the banks - it should use.

Earlier, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.4 percent to close at 9,069.29 while Seoul's Kospi index was roughly unchanged at 2,003.44.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 20,694.70 while Sydney's ASX S&P 200 fell 0.5 percent to 4,385.50. Benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand and India also fell.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3 percent to close at 2,033.19, reversing losses earlier in the day. However, the benchmark is still at its lowest point since January 2009.

Chinese stocks are being hurt by a confrontation between China and Japan over disputed islands that have heightened tensions between Asia's two biggest economies.

They're also under pressure as investors worry about what Chinese authorities will do to restart growth amid the country's economic slowdown. Analysts say it's unlikely that Chinese authorities will unveil any major stimulus measures ahead of the National Day holiday next week or an expected but still unscheduled Communist Party meeting to hand over power to a new generation of leaders.

In currency markets, the euro weakened to $1.2902 from $1.2989 in late trading Friday while the dollar fell to 78.02 Japanese yen from 78.15 yen.

U.S. benchmark crude for October delivery was down $1.46 to $91.43 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 47 cents to settle at $92.89 on Friday.

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