World shares touch eight-month high; euro gains
NEW YORK (Reuters) - World stock prices rose to an eight-month high on Thursday and oil prices climbed as stronger-than-expected Chinese exports raised hopes of a more robust recovery for the global economy this year.
The euro rose on reduced anxiety about the euro zone economy after the European Central Bank unanimously left interest rates unchanged and ECB President Mario Draghi offered no hints that more policy easing will be coming soon.
While the euro zone has been treading water due to a festering debt crisis and a sluggish global economy, Draghi said at a news conference after the ECB rate meeting that "later in 2013, economic activity should gradually recover."
The ECB's policy restraint spurred selling in safe-haven German government debt and stoked bids for gold.
"The global market is expected to be in better shape in 2013 than back in the summer of 2012," said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist at Russell Investments in New York. "There are a few more positives than negatives the market is pricing in."
One of the factors supporting the market was Spain's first debt sale of 2013, which raised more money than expected at a lower borrowing cost than in a previous auction, sending benchmark Spanish bond yields to 10-month lows.
The combination of an improved global economic outlook and reduced worries about Spain's ability to finance its deficit supported bids for world shares for a second day. But lingering worries about poor corporate earnings and the debt ceiling fight in Washington left traders reticent to push stock prices higher, analysts said.
MSCI's broad world equity index was 0.7 percent higher at 349.30, slightly below the highest level since May it touched earlier.
Wall Street stocks rose with the Standard & Poor's 500 index moving closer to a five-year high. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 59.86 points, or 0.45 percent, at 13,450.37. The S&P 500 was up 8.12 points, or 0.56 percent, at 1,469.14. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.52 points, or 0.27 percent, at 3,114.34.
U.S.-traded shares of Nokia (NOK.N) jumped 18.1 percent to $4.43 after the Finnish handset maker said its fourth-quarter results were better than expected.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index flirted with a near two-year high before turning lower in late European trading on comments from Swatch (UHR.VX) CEO Nick Hayek who expected slower growth in Swiss watch exports in 2013. The index closed down 0.29 percent at 1,164.65 after touching 1,170.29.
CHINA DATA RAISE HOPES
China surprised most observers by reporting its exports rebounded sharply in December to a seven-month high, with imports growing at double the expected rate. However, the data showed demand for Chinese goods in the United States and Europe remained subdued.
A broad measure of Chinese credit growth also rose strongly, making it likely that the economy expanded by around 7.8 percent in 2012. Fourth-quarter GDP data come out next week.
China's GDP growth touched a 3-1/2-year low of 7.4 percent between July and September last year.
The strength of imports revealed in the data stoked hopes of greater demand for commodities, lifting copper and oil prices.
"Risk is back on after the China data," said Carsten Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "General market sentiment is much more positive, with hopes of better growth pushing up most markets."
News of a big 700,000 barrels-per-day cut in oil production over the last two months of last year by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, added to gains in oil prices.
Brent crude prices climbed a 12-week high of $113.29 a barrel before subsiding to $111.86, up 10 cents from Wednesday's close.
U.S. crude futures rose 87 cents or 0.9 percent to $93.97 a barrel, while London copper was 0.56 percent higher at $8,125 a tonne.
In the currency market, the euro gained an extra boost after Spain's debt auction raised 5.8 billion euros.
Most of the demand was for a bond maturing in 2015 that would be covered by an ECB bond-buying program if Spain were to apply for international aid, though the success of the auction has probably delayed the timing of any request.
The euro rose 1.5 percent at $1.3254, while yields on 10-year Spanish bonds fell to a 10-month low of 4.90 percent.
Meanwhile, the yield on German 10-year government debt was little changed on the day at 1.566 percent after touching 1.573 percent, its highest level since late October.
(Writing by Richard Leong; Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York and Richard Hubbard, Tricia Wright and Christopher Johnson in London; Editing by Peter Galloway, James Dalgleish and Nick Zieminski)
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