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Markets drift lower amid mixed signals

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PAN PYLAS | July 25, 2013 12:05 PM EST | AP

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LONDON — Markets drifted lower Thursday amid mixed economic and corporate news around the world and as investors paused for thought following Wall Street's failure to make new highs.

Not even an upbeat German business survey or news that the British economy has picked up steam could alter the prevailing selling mood, which has seen many European and Asian indexes post 1 percent declines.

"It might be unfair to blame the current negativity on Wall Street, but the longer U.S. markets dithered ahead of new highs, the greater the likelihood that the bears would take the chance to push major indices lower," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.5 percent at 6,587 even after official figures showed the U.K. economy grew by a quarterly 0.6 percent in the second quarter of the year, its fastest rate in nearly two years. Germany's DAX was down 0.9 percent to 8,298 despite the closely watched Ifo index pointing to solid growth in Europe's economy. The CAC-40 in France was 0.2 percent lower at 3,956.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.47 percent at 15,470 while the broader S&P 500 index fell 0.3 percent to 1,681.

U.S. economic figures failed to lift the mood at the bell, with a bigger-than-expected 4.2 percent surge in durable goods orders in June downplayed because it was largely due to elevated aircraft sales. Meanwhile, a 7,000 increase in weekly U.S. jobless claims was more or less in line with expectations.

The latest run of corporate earnings around the world also failed to excite. Though a number of companies like Facebook have impressed, investors have not shown much willingness to push markets higher on the back of corporate earnings. Among the latest releases, Facebook and General Motors impressed but German chemical company BASF disappointed.

"It looks to me like some results ... are being used as an opportunity to sell at the current highs, creating another opportunity to buy the dips," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari.

Earlier in Asia, China's weak manufacturing figures from Wednesday continued to weigh on sentiment. China's slowdown is in large part self-induced. Its leaders are trying to shift the basis of China's growth away from reliance on exports and industrial investment in favor of consumption which they hope will be more self-sustaining. That means large stimulus is unlikely.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average shed 1.1 percent to 14,562.93 with camera-maker Canon plunging 5.4 percent after it lowered its full-year profit and sales outlook Wednesday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.3 percent to 21,900.96 and China's Shanghai Composite dropped 0.6 percent to 2,021.17.

Currency markets were fairly lackluster with the euro 0.3 percent higher at $1.3226 and the dollar 0.7 percent down at 99.60 yen.

The latest bout of selling of oil ground to a halt and the benchmark New York rate was 36 cents lower at $105.04 a barrel.