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A roundup of trading on major world markets.
NEW YORK - US stocks fell as traders awaited the start of the corporate earnings season.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 73 points at 13,311 heading into the final hour of trade.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down seven points to 1,455 and the Nasdaq composite index was 13 points lower at 3,086.
Aluminum maker Alcoa reports its fourth quarter financial results after the market closes, marking the unofficial kickoff to weeks of earnings announcements from US companies.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect Alcoa to earn six cents per share, after losing 18 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier.
Alcoa is traditionally the first of the 30 companies in the Dow average to report earnings.
Market watchers expect the quarter's results could include many surprises because of events like Superstorm Sandy, the presidential election, and the narrowly avoided tax increases and spending cuts known collectively as the "fiscal cliff."
The European debt crisis also continued to cast a pall over the market.
Unemployment in the 17 countries that use the euro hit a new high, leading the European Union to warn about the risk of fraying social welfare systems in southern Europe.
LONDON - European stock markets closed mixed but mostly lower as investors digested company news and remained cautious ahead of US aluminium giant Alcoa kicking off the quarterly earnings season.
London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies slid 0.18 per cent to 6,053.63 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 dropped 0.48 per cent to 7,695.83 points, while in Paris the CAC 40 edged up 0.03 per cent to 3705.88 points.
With the US fiscal crisis out of the way until talks next month on raising the country's borrowing limit and cutting spending, eyes are now on the upcoming earnings season and economic indicators.
European indicators gave little sense of direction.
The unemployment rate in the eurozone hit a record 11.8 per cent in November, as expected, but eurozone and EU retail sales edged up in November and economic confidence improved in December.
In London, global miner Anglo American named AngloGold Ashanti boss Mark Cutifani as its new chief executive to succeed Cynthia Carroll with effect from April.
Australian Cutifani, 54, has been chief executive officer of South Africa-based gold producer AngloGold Ashanti since 2007, during which time he has led a major restructuring of the business.
Anglo's share price surged 1.4 per cent in London as investors welcomed the appointment of a highly respected leader in the global mining industry.
HONG KONG - Asian markets were mostly lower following losses in New York as dealers took profits from recent advances while also seeking fresh catalysts.
Tokyo was also weighed by a rise in the yen, which has suffered heavy selling in recent weeks, while the South Korean bourse slipped on disappointment over the latest earnings guidance from Samsung Electronics.
Tokyo slipped 0.86 per cent, or 90.95 points, lower to 10,508.06.
Seoul's Kospi was dragged lower by heavyweight Samsung Electronics, which fell 1.3 per cent as it disappointed traders despite forecasting a record operating profit of $US8.8 billion for the three months to the end of December.
Seoul was 0.66 per cent lower, shedding 13.31 points to 1997.94.
Hong Kong lost 0.94 per cent, shedding 218.56 points to 23,111.19 while Shanghai fell 0.41 per cent, or 9.29 points, to 2276.07.
WELLINGTON - New Zealand shares rose in subdued trading, led by Metlifecare, Telecom and PGG Wrightson as investors were drawn to the yields available on equities in the face of low interest rates.
The NZX 50 Index rose 5.52 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,090.36.