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International markets roundup

NEW YORK: Wall Street closed nearly flat on Friday as inflation worries and struggling technology and energy stocks were offset by an advance in the consumer discretionary sector led by Amazon.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq eked out small gains while the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged into negative territory by the end of the session.

All three major US indexes were down for the week at the end of a choppy session, ending two-week winning streaks.

"There's a ton of cross-currents going on in the market right now and consequently you get trading days like this where the market can't seem to make up its mind what it wants to do," said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

Growth in the US economy slowed in the first quarter as consumer spending grew at its weakest pace in nearly five years, according to the Commerce Department. But a jump in wages and lower tax rates suggested the setback could be temporary.

As companies warn of higher costs eroding margins, markets have fluctuated as investors focus on guidance in the face of the strongest quarterly profit growth in seven years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 11.15 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 24,311.19, the S&P 500 gained 2.97 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 2,669.91 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.12 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 7,119.80.

More than half of the S&P 500 companies have reported first-quarter earnings already, 79.4 per cent of which have beat consensus estimates. Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings growth of 24.6 per cent, more than double expectations at the beginning of the year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

LONDON: British shares climbed on Friday after weaker than expected GDP data triggered a slide in sterling, while Royal Bank of Scotland shares fell after its first-quarter results.

UK growth slowed much more sharply than expected in the first quarter, sending the pound to a two-month low against the dollar and slashing the market's expectations the Bank of England will raise interest rates in May.

Sterling's fall boosted multinational dollar-earners on the FTSE 100, helping it jump 1.09 per cent to its highest since February 1, just before a rolling global sell-off spread across markets.

On the mainland, Germany's DAX 30 index was up 0.64 per cent, and France's CAC 40 rose 0.54 per cent.

UK-listed consumer staples stocks, which overwhelmingly make earnings in dollars and translate them back into sterling, all made gains as the pound fell.

Diageo, Unilever, British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands all rose 1.6 to 2.9 percent, the biggest boosts to the FTSE. Burberry also gained 3.1 percent.

The index of major UK companies sealed its fifth straight week of gains, its longest winning streak since January.

TOKYO: Asian shares rose on Friday, while markets in Seoul were underpinned by optimism as leaders of North and South Korea held their first summit in over a decade.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.8 percent, but still looked set to shed 0.9 percent for the week.

South Korea's KOSPI briefly rose more than one percent to a one-month high, helped by hopes that the summit could ease tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme and pave the way for the North and South to end their decades-long conflict.

South Korean equities later pared their gains to 0.8 percent , while the South Korean won rose more than 0.5 percent against the dollar in onshore trade.

"The easing of tension and the possibility of a peace treaty coming on the horizon are bullish for the won and KOSPI," said Mingze Wu, FX trader of global payments for INTL FCStone Ltd in Singapore.

"However,...it will be difficult to imagine a new bullish trend emerging just from this," Wu said.

Japan's Nikkei share average rose 0.7 percent and touched a two-month peak at one point, getting a boost as chip-related firms rallied after brisk earnings forecasts from Advantest and Kyocera.

WELLINGTON: On Friday, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.07 per cent, to 8,370.37.