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European stock markets rise, Asia fades as US data, China growth target eyed

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BEIJING — European stocks gained while Asian markets faltered Wednesday as investors looked ahead to U.S. economic data and China's announcement of its annual growth target.

KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France's CAC-40 added 0.5 percent to 4,893.52 points and Germany's DAX gained 0.3 percent to 11,314.80. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 6,899.09. Wall Street looked set for further declines. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 down 0.1 percent.

U.S. OUTLOOK: Investors were looking ahead to Wednesday's release of data on employment by ADP, a payroll processing company, and manufacturing data from the Institute for Supply Management. Those provide hints for the Labor Department's release of monthly jobs data Friday; the report is an important influence on the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions and scrutinized by financial markets.

PHOTO: Passersby are reflected on an electronic board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Asian stock markets were mostly lower Wednesday after Wall Street declined and investors looked ahead to U.S. economic data and China's announcement of its annual growth target. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
Passersby are reflected on an electronic board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Asian stock markets were mostly lower Wednesday after Wall Street declined and investors looked ahead to U.S. economic data and China's announcement of its annual growth target. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

CHINA TARGET: China's Premier Li Keqiang is expected to lower this year's official growth target to 7 percent from last year's 7.5 percent when he makes an annual appearance before the national legislature Thursday to announce government economic plans. The lower target after a decade of double-digit expansion is part of the ruling Communist Party's marathon effort to reduce China's reliance on trade and investment and nurture more self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and service industries.

ANALYST'S TAKE: The U.S. economy appears strong despite data this week showing declines in construction spending and vehicle sales, according to Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics. "We expect another fairly strong rise in payrolls and a drop in the unemployment rate in the February employment report on Friday," said O'Sullivan in a report.

ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.6 percent to 18,703.60 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 1 percent to 24,465.38. Seoul's Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 1,998.29. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5 percent to 3,279.53. India's Sensex gained 0.8 percent to 29,823.02 after the central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates. Jakarta, Sydney and New Zealand also declined while Taipei and Singapore gained.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 8 cents to $50.66 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 93 cents on Tuesday to close at $40.42. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 44 cents to $60.58 after surging $1.48 to $61.02 on Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was little changed at 119.72 yen from the previous session's 119.66 yen. The euro fell to $1.1144 from $1.1180.

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