European markets underperform amid Crimea fears

LONDON (AP) Rising tensions in Crimea as Russian troops seize Ukrainian ships and military installations have weighed on markets in Europe on Monday despite an earlier advance in Asia and expected gains in the U.S.

The military activity has stoked concerns over what Russia is planning and in particular whether it intends to make further military incursions into Ukraine. Last week, Russia formally annexed Crimea after a hastily-arranged referendum in the peninsula approved the split from Ukraine.

"Clearly traders in Europe are taking their cue from the ongoing crisis in Crimea," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.4 percent at 6,534 while Germany's DAX fell 0.6 percent to 9,285. The CAC-40 in France was 0.7 percent lower at 4,307.

Wall Street, though, was poised for modest gains at the open, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent.

With a pretty thin calendar of economic indicators during the U.S. session, trading may prove to be lackluster, with sentiment potentially influenced by developments in Crimea.

"It seems likely that the direction on Wall Street will be driven largely by factors from overseas," said Joao Monteiro, an analyst at Valutrades.

Earlier, Asian stock markets were boosted by expectations of economic stimulus in China after manufacturing continued to weaken in March and at its fastest clip in 18 months. The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index for China dropped to 48.1 points in March from February's 48.5. Readings below 50 on the 100-point scale indicate a contraction in activity.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225, the regional heavyweight, rose 1.8 percent to 14,475.30 after a three-day long weekend. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.9 percent to 21,846.45 and China's Shanghai Composite Index widened gains after the release of the manufacturing survey, rising 0.9 percent to 2,066.68.

Elsewhere in financial markets, the mood was fairly lackluster, with the euro down 0.2 percent at $1.3765 and the dollar 0.3 percent higher at 102.49 yen. A barrel of benchmark crude was up 54 cents at $100.