Japan's Nikkei outperforms world markets amid stimulus hopes; Europe trading aimless

LONDON (AP) — World stock markets mostly traded in a narrow range Thursday with little new data on the way to spur investors. Japanese stocks were the exception, enjoying a strong rebound amid mounting hopes that further stimulus measures will be announced soon.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 8.91 points, or 0.2 percent, at 5,293.96 while Germany's DAX fell 14.03 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,172.28. The CAC-40 in France was 6.71 points, or 0.2 percent, lower at 3,641.22.

Wall Street was poised for a fairly subdued opening — Dow futures were up 2 points at 10,354 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures rose 1.6 point at 1,088.30.

Earlier in Asia, most stock markets ended the session modestly higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was the standout, closing 122.14 points, or 1.3 percent, higher at 9,362.68.

There's growing market speculation that the Bank of Japan is examining fresh measures to boost liquidity, that could rein in the appreciation of the yen, which has been a major concern for many of Japan's export-dependent businesses.

Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets, said speculation of an easing in Japanese monetary policy weakened the yen as well as giving the Nikkei a boost — by mid morning London time, the dollar was trading 0.2 percent higher at 85.52 yen.

"The most likely course of action could well be in the form of expanding the size of the stimulus package put in place last December," said Hewson.

Figures earlier this week showed that Japan's economy barely grew in the second quarter, allowing China to overtake its neighbor as the world's second-largest economy, behind the United States.

The fear is that economic conditions will get even worse as a result of the recent rise in the yen. Last week, the dollar fell to a 15-year low of 84.75 yen.

The economic calendar around the world is fairly light Thursday, though a scheduled speech later by St. Louis Fed president James Bullard may attract some attention, as will weekly U.S. jobless claims figures

Bullard has already suggested that further stimulus measures are possible to get the U.S. economic recovery back on track.

"Fed officials, like investors, are in data watching mode and as such will probably not rush into any decisions," said Gareth Berry, an analyst at UBS.

Ahead of the speech, the euro was trading 0.3 percent lower at $1.2823.

Earlier in Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.8 percent to 2,687.98, led by refiners and other energy companies. South Korea's Kospi climbed 1 percent to 1,779.64 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.2 percent to 21,068.15.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 recovered from early losses to gain 0.1 percent to 4,479.00, though sentiment was clouded by uncertainties over miner BHP Billiton Ltd.'s hostile $38.5 billion takeover bid for one of the world's biggest fertilizer producers.

Benchmark crude for September delivery was up 39 cents at $75.81 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.