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Nikkei leads fall in weak global stock markets

SEOUL, South Korea - Global stocks fell Thursday, led by a fall in Tokyo, as investors fretted upcoming U.S. indicators would show weakness in the world's biggest economy.

In early European trading, France's CAC 40 drifted 0.1 percent lower to 4,301.79 and Germany's DAX was down 0.2 percent to 9,524.87. Britain's FTSE 100 was almost unchanged at 6,675.03.

Futures pointed to losses on Wall Street after several days of gains. Dow futures and S&P 500 futures were both down 0.5 percent.

Earlier in Asia, investor appetite for risks appeared subdued ahead of U.S. retail sales and initial jobless claims due out later in the day. Economists forecast the U.S. retail spending may have been weak last month.

The soft stock markets came after investors plowed back into riskier assets for several days, encouraged by improved trade figures from China and the new U.S. Federal Reserve chief's pledge to continue low interest rates.

Japan's Nikkei 225, the region's main index, dropped 1.8 percent to 14,534.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.5 percent to 22,165.53 and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.5 percent to 1,926.96. Markets in the Philippines and Taiwan also closed lower.

China's Shanghai Composite Index closed 0.6 percent lower at 2,098.40.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was down 76 cents at $99.62 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 43 cents to close at $100.37 on Wednesday.

In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3661 from $1.3591 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 102.07 yen from 102.47 yen.

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