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World stock markets struggle for direction after Wall Street takes pause from record rally

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HONG KONG - World stock markets struggled for direction Tuesday after Wall Street fell for the first time in seven days, in a possible sign that investors were pausing to re-evaluate the market's recent highs.

Asian markets rose modestly with Japan's benchmark lagging as auto stocks were weighed down by news of a massive airbag recall.

In early European trading, France's CAC 40 was flat at 4,515.41 and Germany's DAX slipped less than 0.1 per cent to 9.913.06. The FTSE 100 index of leading British companies slipped 0.3 per cent to 6,780.77.

U.S. stocks were poised to edge lower, with Dow futures down 0.1 per cent to 16,824.00 and broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 per cent to 1,950.40. A day before, the two U.S. benchmarks ended lower by a fraction, a possible sign of a summer lull after a record-setting run.

Markets had little to go on a day after a mixed batch of economic data releases, including upbeat monthly reports on existing U.S. home sales and China manufacturing and a disappointing eurozone business indicator. Concerns about geopolitical turmoil stemming from the turmoil in Iraq also lingered.

"While there hasn't been much data for the market to work off, it seems the improvement in sentiment in U.S. trade was enough to see glimpses of positive momentum in Asia," said Stan Shamu, IG Markets strategist in Melbourne.

Japan's Nikkei 225 pulled back from earlier losses to edge 0.1 per cent higher to close at 15,376.24. Among the big losers were Honda Motor Co., which fell 1.4 per cent, and Nissan Motor Co., which dropped 1 per cent. The two carmakers along with Mazda announced the day before that they were recalling a combined 3 million vehicles for defective airbags manufactured by a supplier.

South Korea's Kospi rose 1 per cent to 1,994.35 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 per cent to 22,880.64. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China gained 0.5 per cent to 2,033.93.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.4 per cent to 5,432.80 as investors took profits a day after a big gain.

In energy trading, the price of U.S. benchmark crude for August delivery fell 56 cents to $105.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 66 cents to $106.17 on Monday.

In currencies, the dollar edged lower to 101.89 Japanese yen from 101.91 in late trading Monday. The euro rose to $1.3618 from $1.3601.

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