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Asia Stock Markets Fall Ahead Of Fed Meeting

By PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Global stock markets fell Monday, led by a sharp dive in Japan, as traders awaited a packed schedule of economic data releases this week in the U.S. and a key meeting of the Federal Reserve.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 sank 3.3 percent to 13,661.13, its first close below 14,000 since July 1, as the yen continued to reverse some its recent fall. Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, said the Nikkei's sharp decline sparked jitters elsewhere in Asia. He added that slowing growth in China presented an additional reason for caution.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.6 percent to 1,899.89, hurt by losses among technology shares. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.5 percent to 21,850.15. On the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index shed 1.7 percent to 1,976.31 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 1.9 percent to 941.33.

European stocks were mixed in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 shed 0.4 percent to 6,563.21. But Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent to 8,266 and France's CAC-40 gained 0.2 percent to 3,979.31. Wall Street appeared set for losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures falling 0.2 percent to 15,460 and S&P 500 futures shedding 0.3 percent to 1,681.80.

Analysts expect to see a drop in unemployment when the U.S. Labor Department releases employment figures for July at the end of the week, but some say it will not be enough to prompt an immediate scaling back of the Fed's bond-buying program, which has been helping to buoy the economy.

Traders have been cautious in recent days ahead of the Fed's two-day meeting, which begins Tuesday, for hints of when the central bank will start reducing its monetary stimulus.

"Our guess is that it won't happen until December and it could be delayed further yet," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in a report.

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