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World Stocks Drop After US Jobless News

Investors will also be bracing themselves for Microsoft Corp.'s results after the markets close.

"Tonight's numbers from Microsoft may be worth watching as again investments in technology can be something of a barometer of economic health," said Matt Buckland, a dealer at CMC Markets.

Investors also remained cautious about staking out big positions in the current climate, especially after investment bank Morgan Stanley posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss and reduced its dividend Wednesday. Its results interrupted a string of better-than-expected results from banks that suggested some of their problems were easing.

News of Morgan Stanley's disappointing quarterly report has rattled many investors already nervous about the U.S. government's upcoming "stress tests" of the banks, the results of which are due in early May.

Worries that some of the medium-sized banks will need fresh capital from the government fueled Wednesday's selling pressure on Wall Street, which saw the Dow down by 82 points and the S&P 500 down by 11 points.

The markets have traded in a narrower range over the last couple of weeks, often rising modestly one day and falling the next, having recovered strongly from multi-year lows in the previous few weeks amid rising hopes that recovery could emerge this year.
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