International markets roundup

A roundup of trading on major world markets:

NEW YORK - Wall Street stocks have finished lower in light pre-holiday trade after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the plan to raise interest rates this year was on track.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 53.72 points (0.29 per cent) to 18,232.02 by close on Friday.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 4.76 points (0.22 per cent) to 2,126.06, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 1.43 points (0.03 per cent) to 5,089.36.

Dr Yellen said delaying a move to raise interest rates "would risk overheating the economy." However, she also warned that the US economy continues to show weakness, with significant job market slack not reflected in the 5.4 per cent jobless rate.

Analysts said trading volume was light ahead of Monday's Memorial Day holiday, when markets will be closed.

Shares of clothing retailer Gap fell 1.4 per cent after first-quarter net income dropped eight per cent to $US239 million ($A302.76 million). Comparable sales at its Old Navy chain rose three per cent, but fell sharply at Banana Republic and its namesake stores.

Farm equipment maker Deere & Co. jumped 4.4 per cent after easily topping earnings expectations. It reported profits of $US2.03 per share, compared with the $1.55 projected by analysts.

China's eLong surged 8.7 per cent after US online travel company Expedia announced it had sold its majority stake in the company to several Chinese companies for $US671 million. Expedia jumped 6.7 per cent, while International, one of the buyers, surged 17.6 per cent.

Time Warner Cable pushed 3.4 per cent higher on renewed speculation it could be acquired. Reuters reported Friday that French telecom giant Altice was in talks with banks to raise debt for a bid.

LONDON - Europe's main stock markets have closed mixed as investors' attention focused to an EU summit on relations with the ex-Soviet states and the Greek crisis as well as US inflation data.

In the euro area, Frankfurt's DAX 30 lost 0.42 per cent to 11,815.01 points on Friday and the CAC 40 in Paris dipped 0.07 per cent to end the day at 5,142.89 points compared with Thursday's close.

But in London the benchmark FTSE 100 index rose 0.26 per cent at 7,031.72 points, boosted by gains to share prices of heavyweight miners that rallied on Chinese stimulus hopes.

"Eurozone indices have struggled... weighed down by Greek debt concerns," said Kash Kamal, research analyst at Sucden Financial.

"The prospect of a potential conclusion (to debt talks) towards the end of May or early June, after what has been a drawn out and difficult period of negotiations saw the euro rally towards 1.1208 earlier today, however, with no concrete details regarding the revised terms of any deal these early gains were swiftly given back." Kamal said.

HONG KONG - Asian markets have risen following another record close on Wall Street as the likelihood of a US interest rate hike in the near term dwindled, with Tokyo hitting a new 15-year high.

Chinese shares were again the stand-out performers on Friday on hopes Beijing will announce fresh monetary easing measures after more disappointing economic indicators.

Tokyo reversed a morning sell-off to end 0.30 per cent higher, adding 61.54 points to 20,264.41 - its best finish since April 2000, while Shanghai surged 2.83 per cent, or 128.17 points, to 4,657.60.

Hong Kong added 1.70 per cent, or 469.11 points, to close at 27,992.83 and Seoul closed 1.10 per cent up, gaining 23.29 points to 2,146.10.

WELLINGTON - The New Zealand sharemarket has closed slightly higher, with solid gains posted by Meridian Energy, Sky TV, Nuplex Industries and Coats Group.

The NZX 50 Index rose 6.752 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5776.017 on Friday.

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