World stocks up before release of US jobless data


BANGKOK (AP) — World stock markets shared Wall Street's ebullience and turned higher Thursday ahead of the release of U.S. jobless claims.

Investors will also be looking for the release of the Labor Department's producer price index to see whether inflation is posing any kind of threat to the U.S. economy. The index measures the cost of goods before they reach consumers. Stable prices give the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates at record lows without worrying about igniting inflation.

"Inevitably there will be much chatter today about the (Dow Jones) index potentially extending its winning streak to double digits, with much depending on the outcome of jobless claims and PPI data," said Matt Basi of CMC Markets in an email commentary. The Dow has risen for nine straight trading sessions.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent to 6,505.26. Germany's DAX gained 0.9 percent to 8,039.14. France's CAC-40 advanced 0.7 percent to 3,860.92. Wall Street appeared set to extend its winning streak, with Dow Jones industrial futures rising 0.2 percent to 14,431 and S&P 500 futures gaining 0.2 percent to 1,553.20.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.2 percent to finish at 12,381.19 — its highest close in more than four years — as investors anticipated parliament's approval of Haruhiko Kuroda as chief of the Bank of Japan. Kuroda has been critical of the central bank's policies in the past and is thought to back Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's strategies for seeking to revive Japan's economy by fighting deflation through monetary easing and hefty government spending.

South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent to 2,002.13. Benchmarks in mainland China and New Zealand were also higher. Elsewhere in Asia, however, stock markets ran into speed bumps.

Stocks in Hong Kong were muted as a result of investor disappointment as the annual National People's Congress in Beijing heads toward its conclusion without having announced policy moves to stimulate the economy. The Hang Seng spent much of the day in the red but ended up 0.3 percent at 22,619.18.

"It is disappointment that the Chinese government did not launch any ... economic stimulus as expected. The speculators have played up the market ahead of the congress and they are disappointed," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong.

Lun said that mortgage rate increases by two major banks also hurt property stocks. Hong Kong-listed Henderson Land Development Co. dropped 4 percent. Sino Land Co. lost 2.2 percent.

In Australia, a report showing the country experienced its strongest job growth in more than a decade in February hurt stock market sentiment since it diminished hopes of an interest rate cut, analysts said. The S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.2 percent to 5,032.20.

But the jobs trend was not likely to continue because the mining boom that has been fueling growth is sputtering, analysts said.

"It is unlikely that we will see a sustained improvement in jobs numbers despite the decent pace of growth," analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.

BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, fell 2.3 percent in Sydney. Rival mining giant Rio Tinto fell 2.3 percent.

On Wednesday, a U.S. government report showed retail sales grew 1.1 percent in January from the previous month, almost twice as much as forecast. The rise showed consumer spending, which makes up about three quarters of economic activity in the U.S., was not inhibited by recent tax increases.

The Dow Jones industrial average notched its ninth gain in a row Wednesday, giving the index its longest winning streak in more than 16 years. Demand for stocks has been propelled this year by optimism that the housing market is recovering and that companies have started to hire. Strong company earnings and ongoing stimulus from the Federal Reserve are also helping make stocks more attractive.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2947 from $1.2961 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 96.42 yen from 96.04 yen.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 26 cents to $92.79 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 2 cents to close at $92.52 on the Nymex on Wednesday.


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