Stocks rise further as optimism prevails

Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer
Asia stocks up as US small business mood improves

An investor keeps a memo as he sits in front of the stock price monitor at a private securities company in Shanghai, China, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. Asian stock markets were mixed Tuesday in a lukewarm reaction to data showing that U.S. consumers revved up their retail spending last month. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

LONDON (AP) -- Stocks pushed higher Tuesday as investors remained optimistic that economic growth is picking up, but not so much that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to wind down its stimulus program imminently.

Over the past few weeks, investors have been picked up by a wave of optimism over a range of issues — including the prospects for the U.S. economy — following a run of forecast-busting jobs figures.

That has pushed several indexes to record highs. The Dow Jones industrial average and the broader S&P 500 index both hit new highs on Tuesday.

Waning fears over Europe's debt crisis and the bold attempt by Japan's monetary authorities to shake off a two-decade economic stagnation have also helped.

In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.7 percent to close at 8,339.11 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.5 percent to 3,966.06. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares gained 0.8 percent to 6,686.06.

Figures showing industrial production among the 17 countries that use the euro rose a better-than-expected 1 percent in March helped shore up the mood. The figures raised some expectations that the recession in the eurozone may have ended. The first estimate of the region's gross domestic product in the first three months is due for release Wednesday.

In the U.S., the Dow was up 0.5 percent to hit a new high at 15,170.75 while the S&P 500 rose 0.8 percent to 1,647.45.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2 percent to close at 14,758.42 — a modest retreat following two spectacular sessions that have seen the index rise to five-year highs.

The index has soared more than 42 percent since the beginning of the year as the yen dropped sharply in response to the Bank of Japan's aggressive monetary stimulus program.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, elected late last year on promises to revive the world's third-largest economy, has implemented a policy mix of increased public spending and aggressive monetary easing to end the country's two decades of economic stagnation.

On Tuesday, the dollar was up 0.4 percent against the Japanese yen, at 102.28 yen, and largely unchanged against the euro, which was trading 0.1 percent lower at $1.2961.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi added 1 percent to 1,968.83 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent at 22,930.28. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.1 percent to 2,217.01. The Shenzhen Composite Index fell 1.4 percent 960.81.

Oil prices were little changed, with the benchmark New York rate 19 cents lower at $94.98 a barrel after the International Energy Agency raised its U.S. oil production forecasts and cut its prediction for global crude demand.