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A roundup of trading on major world markets:

NEW YORK - US stocks have opened flat as investors digest mixed housing and inflation data and awaited the minutes of last month's Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting.

Five minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.18 points (0.01 per cent) at 14,036.85.

The S&P 500-stock index slipped 1.43 points (0.09 per cent) to 1,529.51 and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite edged down 0.82 point (0.03 per cent) to 3,212.78.

The Dow and the S&P finished at new five-year highs on Tuesday after posting modest gains.

LONDON - European stock markets diverged, with London gaining on an increasing prospect of more cash stimulus from the Bank of England (BoE), while Paris dropped on profit-taking, analysts said.

At closing, London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies gained 0.26 per cent to 6395.37 points while Frankfurt's DAX 30 dipped by 0.30 per cent to 7728.90 points and in Paris the CAC 40 fell 0.69 per cent to 3709.88 points

"The apparent shift towards more easing by the UK central bank was sufficient to lift the FTSE 100 over the 6400 mark, revisiting this level for the first time since January 2008," said Chris Beauchamp, an analyst at IG trading group.

But the index dipped below the benchmark in late trade, falling closer in line with other European markets.

Bank of England governor Mervyn King called for more quantitative easing stimulus cash earlier this month, minutes of the BoE's February meeting showed on Wednesday, pushing the pound to a near 16-month low against the euro.

HONG KONG - Asian markets mostly climbed, with dealers taking a positive cue from Wall Street and Europe, following a surge in investor confidence in eurozone powerhouse Germany.

Japanese shares posted healthy gains on Wednesday as the yen softened and data showed exports rose for the first time in eight months in January, although the country still posted its worst ever monthly trade deficit.

Tokyo added 0.84 per cent, or 95.94 points, to 11,468.28, while Sydney was up 0.33 per cent, or 16.8 points, to 5,098.7 points - its highest close since September 2008.

Seoul jumped 1.95 per cent, or 38.81 points to 2,024.64 and Hong Kong was up 0.71 per cent, or 163.50 points, at 23,307.41, while Shanghai added 0.60 per cent, or 14.27 points, to 2,397.18.

WELLINGTON - The NZX 50 fell 29.97 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4214.24.