European markets subdued in early trading
European shares edged lower in the opening minutes of trade due to the absence of any positive cues, while the yen continued its downward spiral hitting 93.94 against the dollar.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.01 percent to 1,154.14. The UK's FTSE 100 slid 0.1 percent while Germany's DAX declined 0.2 percent. France's CAC-40 lost 0.1 percent.
Italy's FTSE MIB and Spain's Ibex were down 0.4 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.
News of the continent-wide fall came before the release of inflation data from the Bank of England (BoE), which will be eagerly awaited by investors.
Asian shares ended mixed while Japan closed on a positive note, boosted by the weakness of the yen which slipped to new multi-year lows. Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average surged 1.9 percent and ended at 11,369.12.
South Korea's KOSPI came under pressure following reports that rival North Korea conducted a third nuclear test, which pulled the index 0.3 percent down. Korea Gas Corp and Korea electrical Power Corp declined 2.2 percent and 2.4 percent respectively.
While Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index ended flat, New Zealand's NZX 50 Index slid 0.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the G7 countries which consist of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Italy Canada and Japan are considering the release of a joint statement on the issue of recent unilateral currency devaluations pursued by several countries during the upcoming G20 meeting in Moscow.
Earlier, the US Treasury Undersecretary Lael Brainard praised Japan's efforts to boost growth, indicating support for the country's monetary easing policies at the G20 meeting.
Elsewhere, President Obama's State of the Union address will be a closely watched event which is likely to be centred around fiscal policy. The S&P 500 futures were little changed after it closed 0.1 percent lower in the last session. The index was at its highest level since November 2007 having gained 6.3 percent in 2013, following a series of positive developments including a budget compromise and better-than- expected corporate earnings.
The Dow closed 0.16 percent lower at 13,971.24, while the Nasdaq ended flat in the previous trading session.
Major Movers in Asia
Financial stocks rallied in Tokyo following comments from Japan's economy minister that the share prices were too low and stimulus measures are needed to lift them.
"It will be important to show our mettle to see the Nikkei reaches 13,000 points by the end of the fiscal year," Akira Amari told the Kyodo News.
Mizuho Financial Group rose 4.8 percent while Nomura Holdings and Daiwa Securities Group added 5.5 percent and 4 percent respectively. Advertising firm Dentsu Inc jumped 10.5 percent as it reported a 24 percent rise in nine-month profit.
Nissan shares dropped 3.8 percent as Japan's second-biggest car maker reported a drop in sales in China, which resulted in the lower-than-expected results for the third quarter. However, its rival Toyota gained 0.5 percent to 4,920 yen.
In Sydney, Whitehaven Coal Ltd., Australia's second-biggest independent coal producer rose 7.8 percent to A$3.19 after winning conditional approval for a mining project.
Stock markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia remain shut for Lunar New Year holidays.
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