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Shares mixed ahead of Greek showdown talks

US stocks stalled their advance and European shares stumbled yesterday ahead of a showdown between Greece's finance minister and eurozone finance ministers over the country's debt, while oil prices slipped for a second day.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and eurozone finance ministers were scheduled to meet to continue negotiations over the nation's debt crisis.

The country's new leftist-led government has said it will end cooperation with those overseeing the country's bailout programme. EU leaders are meeting on the same issue today.

Unease over the situation led European stocks to turn lower after gaining Tuesday, led by a four per cent slump in Greek shares. US stocks were little changed.

“It looks like we are kind of hanging in and waiting to see if there are any fireworks,” said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle,Illinois.

Brent crude oil fell more than $2 towards $54 a barrel after US crude stockpiles hit record highs. US commercial crude oil stockpiles rose by 4.9 million barrels last week to 417.93 million barrels, the highest since records began in 1982, the government-run Energy Information Administration reported yesterday.

The data stoked concerns of oversupply. The latest two-day dip in oil prices comes after prices, which had halved since June, regained momentum and rallied more than 20 per cent in the last four weeks. Brent crude was last down $1.59 at $54.84 a barrel. US crude was last down $1.19 at $48.83.

The Dow Jones industrial average was last down 0.2 per cent, at 17,832.15. The S&P 500 was up 0.01 points, or roughly flat, at 2,068.6 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.39 per cent, at 4,806.51.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top regional shares was last down 0.37 per cent at 1,482.89. MSCI's all-country world stock index slipped 0.33 per cent, to 419.76.

The US dollar hit a five-week high against the Japanese yen of 120.42 yen, bolstered by a slight rise in US Treasury yields.

“The story is still about US yields and they have been trending higher and that has been supportive of dollar/yen,” said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at BNP Paribas in New York.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields were last at 2.02 per cent from 1.99 per cent late on Tuesday.

The conflict in Ukraine sent the Russian rouble tumbling two per cent against the US dollar. The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine were attend-ing a peace summit yesterday in Belarus aimed at ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Gold fell to a one-month low as the dollar's rise against the yen pushed spot prices through key support at $1,229 an ounce. Spot gold prices were last down $10.27 at $1,223.53.

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