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Markets drift but quarter-end has potential for volatility

Associated Press logo Associated Press 31/03/2017
Men chat in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, March 31, 2017. Asian stock markets were mostly higher Friday after Wall Street gained and Chinese factory activity improved. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) © The Associated Press Men chat in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, March 31, 2017. Asian stock markets were mostly higher Friday after Wall Street gained and Chinese factory activity improved. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

LONDON — European stock markets traded in narrow ranges Friday though trading has the potential to become quite volatile in the hours before the first quarter of the year ends. Often, investors use such landmarks to rebalance their portfolios to make their holdings look as profitable as they can be.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX was flat at 12,258 while the CAC 40 was down 0.1 percent at 5,082. The more internationalist FTSE 100 index of leading British shares underperformed its peers, trading 0.5 percent lower at 7,333. U.S. stocks were poised for modest declines at the open with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 percent.

QUARTER'S END: Trading in Europe and the U.S. could be impacted by the end of the first quarter, traditionally a time when many investors close out positions to elevate their numbers or to refinance commitments.

ANALYST TAKE: "The final hours of the week could be quite active though as final rebalancing occurs and with a number of important pieces of economic data being released at the same time, it could make for an interesting end to the day," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

U.S. DATA: A day after the Commerce Department raised its estimate for U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 2.1 percent from 1.9 percent, traders have some other economic digest including personal income data. Next week, there'll be a raft of global economic data culminating with the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for March — a potentially big driver for markets over the coming weeks as they assess when the Federal Reserve will next raise interest rates.

TRUMP WATCH: Another potential big driver will be U.S. relations with China in the run-up to the April 6-7 meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. Trump said in a tweet that his meeting with the Chinese president "will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses."

EUROZONE INFLATION: Inflation across the 19-country eurozone fell sharply in March due to weaker price increases partly related to the timing of Easter, official figures showed, in a development that's likely to ease the pressure on the European Central Bank to rein back its stimulus efforts soon. The European Union's statistics agency, Eurostat, said the annual consumer price inflation rate was 1.5 percent, down from February's four-year high of 2 percent. That puts inflation back below the ECB's target of just under 2 percent.

CURRENCIES: The inflation figures had little impact on the euro though as expectations over the number had been depressed by lower than anticipated German I inflation figures. The euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.0685. Elsewhere, the dollar was down 0.1 percent at 110.80 yen.

ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 0.8 percent to 18,909.20 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.8 percent to 24,111.59. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.5 percent to 5,864.90 and Seoul's Kospi retreated 0.2 percent to 2,160.23. India's Sensex gave up 0.2 percent to 29,583.58 and Taiwan and New Zealand rose.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 12 cents to $50.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 31 cents to $52.65.

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