Global shares inch higher despite cautious trading

MANILA, Philippines - Global shares inched higher in cautious trading on Friday as investors awaited the release of U.S. non-farm payroll data and developments from China's National Congress, which will open this weekend with a speech by Premier Li Keqiang that is likely to downgrade the country's official growth forecast.

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China said Friday it will boost military spending by about 7 to 8 per cent this year, the smallest increase in six years, reflecting slowing economic growth and a drawdown of 300,000 troops as Beijing seeks to build a more streamlined, modern military.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.4 per cent at 6,155.29 in early trading. France's CAC 40 rose 0.1 per cent at 4,421.14. Germany's DAX was nearly flat at 9,757.62. U.S. futures suggested a muted start for Wall Street with Dow futures and S&P futures both nearly flat.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed 0.3 per cent higher at 17,014.78 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.2 per cent to 20,176.70 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 per cent, closing at 5.090.00 South Korea's Kospi edged 0.1 per cent lower to 1,955.63. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.5 per cent to 2,874.15, while shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "The markets are settling into a combination of cautiousness and restrained hopefulness," Bernard Aw of IG said in a commentary. "Investors are holding back on their appetite for risk, preferring to nibble at fine pieces instead of gobbling at an international buffet."

CHINA OUTLOOK: China's leaders are expected to trim their growth target during the annual session of the National People's Congress, seeking more flexibility for structural reforms for the slowing, state-dominated economy. The growth target due to be announced on Saturday is expected to be a range of 6.5 to 7 per cent, down from 2015's goal of about 7 per cent.

OIL: The price of U.S. crude oil rose 12 cents to $34.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 9 cents to $34.57 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, fell 16 cents to $36.91 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The euro was lower at $1.0944 from $1.0946 and the dollar climbed to 113.74 yen from 113.62 yen.


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