Markets inconclusive...Consumer focused reports due today

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian stock markets drifted today following Japanese data showing that the region's second biggest economy is struggling to recover from a sales tax hike. European shares were marginally higher even as a report said eurozone inflation slipped. Futures point to a slightly higher opening on Wall Street after yesterday's slide. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose above $95 a barrel. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two reports that are due out today will focus on the consumer. The Commerce Department will report on personal income and spending for July. And the University of Michigan will issue its index of consumer sentiment for August.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Inflation in the 18 countries that use the euro sank to 0.3 percent in August, a worrying sign of economic weakness that is putting pressure on the European Central Bank to take more drastic steps to keep a weak recovery from stalling completely. Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, said Friday the figure is down from 0.4 per cent in July, as expected by market analysts. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy, sent a modestly brighter signal as it rose to 0.9 percent from 0.8 percent.

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's vital signs remained weak in July as wages fell further and household spending dropped, signaling continued weakness in the world's third-largest economy. Data released today the inflation rate was unchanged from the previous month. The core price consumer index that excludes volatile fresh food prices rose 3.3 percent in July, the same as a month earlier. Much of the increase stems from a 2 percentage point increase in Japan's sales tax in April, which has since sapped much of the steam from the country's economic recovery.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Royal Dutch Shell PLC has filed a revised Arctic offshore drilling plan with federal regulators but says the company hasn't decided whether to return to waters off the coast of northwest Alaska in 2015. The revised exploration plan submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in Anchorage calls for two drilling vessels to operate simultaneously in the Chukchi Sea rather than one in the Chukchi and one in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north Coast. The presence of two vessels is required so one can drill a relief well in the event of damage from a blowout.

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