Tech earnings dent world stock markets

Teresa Cerojano, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Disappointing earnings from two U.S. technology giants sent world stock markets lower Friday while doubts about growth prospects for China and Japan offset better U.S. economic news.

Stocks retreated despite Wall Street reaching record levels again Thursday after claims for unemployment benefits fell and manufacturing surged in the mid-Atlantic region.

Sentiment in Asia and Europe was dampened by less-than-impressive earnings reports from Microsoft and Google that were released after the close of U.S. trading. Google's quarterly report showed its average ad rate fell from the previous year for the seventh consecutive quarter. In an unexpected turn, the decline deepened for the first time in a year.

Software giant Microsoft booked a large write-off to its Surface RT business after it slashed prices on the tablets to stimulate demand this week. Its quarterly earnings results also showed that Windows 8, an operating system designed to bridge the divide between PCs and tablets, has been so poorly received that it contributed to a revenue drop in its operating system software unit.

In early European trading, the FTSE 100 index of British shares was 0.4 percent down to 6,609.08. Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent to 8,300.25 and France's CAC-40 was down 0.5 percent at 3,906.56.

Wall Street futures were also trading weakly, with S&P 500 futures down 0.1 percent at 1,678.80 and the Dow Jones futures 0.2 percent lower at 15,450.

Asian stock markets closed mostly in the red. Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 1.5 percent to 14,589.91 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent to 4,972.09. Benchmarks in Singapore, the Philippines and Taiwan were also lower while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added just 0.1 percent to 21,362.42.

Seoul's Kospi wavered between gains and losses, finishing 0.2 percent down at 1,871.41. China's Shanghai Composite index fell 1.5 percent to 1,992.65.

China earlier this week reported its second straight quarter of slower growth and authorities appear determined to stick to a path of shifting the economy away from reliance on investment and exports, which could dent economic activity in the near term.

In Japan, the initial euphoria over the "Abenomics" stimulus policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has faded and doubts have emerged about whether deeper reforms will be carried out. Japan holds upper house elections on the weekend.

"Although the U.S. market is at a record high, in Asia, people are still worried about two things: one, the slowdown in China, and then number two, the situation in Japan," said Francis Lun of GE Oriental Financial Group. He said there was concern "Abenomics may be running out of steam."

Lun said because the U.S. markets are doing well, a lot of fund managers have been shifting money from Asia to America.

"You have an exodus of funds that began in the second half of May and the exodus is still continuing," he said.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 28 cents at $107.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.56 to close at $108.04 on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3115 from $1.3106 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 100.25 yen from 100.48 yen.