Markets cautious ahead of key week for Greece

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By CARLO PIOVANO, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Global markets edged lower in lackluster trading on Monday as investors remained cautious ahead of a crucial week for Greece, whose leaders will try to show they are making progress in implementing economic reforms.

In Europe, the FTSE-100 index of leading British companies closed 0.5 percent lower at 5,824.37 while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 7,033.68. France's CAC-40 shed 0.2 percent to 3,480.58.

Wall Street also slipped — the Dow was down 0.1 percent and the broader S&P 500 0.2 percent — while Asian markets had earlier closed lower.

Investors this week are watching Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' visit to Germany and France, where he is expected to ask for an extension on Greece's deadline to meet fiscal targets as the country carries out painful reforms. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the eurozone finance ministers' meetings, will be in Athens on Wednesday to meet Samaras.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Monday that Athens must follow through with reforms but added that Berlin wants Greece to remain in the eurozone. There is, however, little chance of Germany supporting a third rescue package, Volker Kauder, a senior ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying.

Ahead of Samaras' meetings, Greece's finance officials were trying on Monday to secure €11.5 billion ($14.19 billion) in budget savings necessary for the country to continue receiving its bailout funds. Greece's debt inspectors will issue a report next month on whether the country is doing enough to cut its debt.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.4 percent to close at 2,106.96, the lowest level since early 2009 as investors continue to be cautious about the world's second largest economy amid mounting signs of a slowdown. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.3 percent to 879.25. Agriculture, biotechnology and food companies led gains while insurance, real estate and engineering companies dropped.

A report over the weekend that property prices in July rose slightly indicated the property market was benefiting from recent interest rate cuts, analysts said. But investors were still downbeat about prospects for further big stimulus measures, which are often announced on weekends or holidays.

"Every weekend investors are expecting the (Chinese) central government would throw out polices and every Monday comes in and there are no policies," said Jackson Wong, a vice president at Tanrich Securities. "That disappoints investors in general."

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.1 percent to close at 9,171.16 while South Korea's Kospi was practically unchanged to end at 1,946.31. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 20,104.27.

Crude oil futures were down 22 cents to $95.79 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 41 cents to finish at $96.01 per barrel in New York on Friday.

In currencies, the euro was trading at $1.2346, down 0.1 percent from Friday, while the dollar was steady at 79.42 yen against the Japanese currency.

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Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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