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Stocks cautious ahead of Europe debt plan
Global stock markets cautious as investors wait for Europe debt crisis solution
By The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) ' Stock markets fluctuated on Tuesday as investors cautiously waited for European leaders to unveil a plan to tackle the continent's debt crisis, while corporate earnings were mostly upbeat.

European leaders have said they made progress at a weekend summit and intend to unveil comprehensive plans for containing the crisis at a meeting on Wednesday.

Among the measures, the 17-nation eurozone is set to boost the powers of its bailout fund. German lawmakers said the fund's lending capacity could reach more than euro1 trillion ($1.39 trillion).



The plan is also expected to lighten Greece's debt load by having the country's private bondholders agree to sharper losses. Meanwhile, ailing European banks will be asked to raise fresh capital to protect them against such losses.

Markets have risen over the past week on hopes that such a deal will be agreed despite initial delays. One day ahead of the plan's scheduled unveiling, that momentum gave way to caution.

Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.2 percent higher at 5,561.09, while Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent at 6,082. France's CAC-40 slipped 0.3 percent to 3,211.

Wall Street headed for a weak opening, with Dow Jones Industrial Futures up less than 0.1 percent to 11,819 and S&P 500 futures sliding less than 0.1 percent to 1,246.30.

Signs of the continuing debt crisis were felt in Spain, where the government managed to raise nearly euro3.5 billion ($4.9 billion) in short-term debt, but at sharply higher interest rates.

In Greece, the capital was hit by a public transport workers' strike which snarled traffic. Tuesday's 24-hour strike is the latest in a long series being organized to protest against government cutbacks, which include salary and pension cuts and increased taxes.

Corporate news was somewhat more upbeat, with earnings reports showing a broad increase in profits but job cuts at some of Europe's largest companies.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG said it will slash 2,000 jobs as drug prices come under pressure from governments seeking to reduce health care budgets.

Novartis posted a 7 percent increased third-quarter net profit of $2.49 billion. But it said 1,100 jobs will disappear in Switzerland, with a further 900 to be cut in the United States. Some 700 new positions will be created in low-cost countries such as India and China, resulting in a net loss of 1,300 jobs.

"The health care industry is facing a difficult external environment," Chief Executive Joseph Jimenez told reporters in a conference call. "The financial crisis has become a debt crisis and you've got governments around the world that are pushing down prices of pharmaceuticals and other health care products."

Novartis shares fell 2 percent by late morning on the Zurich exchange.

Oil company BP saw a near doubling in its net profit and Deutsche Bank beat market expectations with a swing back to profitability. Swiss bank UBS AG posted a smaller-than-expected decline in earnings despite the impact of a rogue trade.

Asian shares ended mostly higher after a skittish day of trading. Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed 0.9 percent lower at 8,762.31, with exporters struggling in the face of a strong yen. The dollar hovered near the 76-yen line, just above a new record low of 75.78 yen hit before the weekend.

Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi lost 0.5 percent to 1,888.65, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.1 percent to 18,968.20. Benchmarks in mainland China, India, Taiwan, Singapore, and New Zealand also advanced.

In currencies, the dollar rose slightly to 76.12 yen from 76.07 yen late Monday in New York. The euro stood at $1.3909 from $1.3951.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was up $1.62 cents at $92.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $3.87, or 4.4 percent, to settle at $91.27 in New York on Monday.

Brent crude was down 2 cents at $111.43 a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.

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Tomoko A. Hosaka in Tokyo contributed to this article.


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