By Akane Otani
Global stocks drifted between small gains and losses, pausing a day after worries about softening growth around the world sent markets tumbling.
The Stoxx Europe 600 edged down less than 0.1% in early trading, with gains offset by declines in oil-and-gas firms and auto makers.
Asian stocks fell across the board, with Japan's Nikkei suffering the steepest drop in the region.
Stock markets have stumbled this week as a string of downbeat economic data from the eurozone and renewed trade uncertainty added to investors' sense of unease. Those forces have kept the market's advance muted so far in February, marking a pause after U.S. stock indexes charged higher for their best January in decades.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid more than 200 points Thursday, with the selling accelerating after White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the U.S. and China were still "far away" from securing a trade deal.
Despite some disappointing economic data, many investors continue to believe the global expansion has further room to run. A report Friday showed German exports rose more than expected in December, offering analysts some relief after data a day earlier showed an unexpected slump in industrial production at the end of the year.
Germany's DAX index inched down less than 0.1%, stabilizing after suffering its biggest one-day slide since December. The yield on the 10-year German government bond yield also steadied, trading at around 0.113%, compared with 0.117% Thursday. Yields fall as bond prices rise.
"We're not on the verge of a recession," said Isabelle Mateos y Lago, managing director and chief multiasset strategist at BlackRock, who believes investors can still find opportunities in stocks, particularly in emerging markets and the U.S. "You can't be as aggressive as when the economy was expanding faster -- but we do still see scope for returns in equities."
Still, some analysts warn that economic data could deteriorate further. That could keep stocks under pressure for much of the next few months.
"We think the consensus is probably still a bit too optimistic in terms of expectations for earnings growth this year," said Andrea Cicione, head of macro strategy at TS Lombard, who noted U.S. multinationals' exposure to foreign markets makes them vulnerable to slowdowns in China and other emerging markets. "The slowing of growth in China and the rest of Asia -- well, that's having an impact on profits."
U.S. stock futures continued to lose ground Friday, with S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures each off by 0.3%. Changes in futures don't necessarily reflect moves after the opening bell.
Earnings reports released late Thursday drove swings in premarket trading. Skechers USA soared 18% after the shoe company delivered a better-than-expected first-quarter outlook. Mattel jumped 16% after its results topped analysts' estimates for earnings and revenue.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average slumped 2% to its lowest level in a month, hurt by downbeat earnings forecasts from a number of companies. Hong Kong's Hang Seng, which reopened for trading following the Lunar New Year holiday, edged down 0.2%.
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