German data gives European markets a boost

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2009 7:09 AM

European stock markets rose Friday after encouraging German economic data and Wall Street futures pushed higher ahead of what could be a volatile session as traders close out positions ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 52.49 points, or 1 percent, at 5,270.10 while Germany's DAX rose 39.73 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,884.17. The CAC-40 in France was 20.27 points, or 0.5 percent, higher at 3,851.09.

The gains in Europe came after the Ifo Institute in Germany revealed that business confidence in the eurozone's largest economy rose for the month running in December to stand at its highest level since July 2008.

"Business confidence numbers for Germany have climbed more than the market was expecting and this seems to be lifting the mood towards equities at the end of the week," said Anthony Grech, market strategist at IG Index.

"U.S. markets have also been lifted by the positive European sentiment," he added.

Dow futures were up 53 points, or 0.5 percent, at 10,325 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures rose 6.9 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,101.10.

Activity in markets is also being affected heavily by the upcoming year-end. Friday is set to be the last day for many investors before they begin a two-week break and that could lead to volatile trading especially as many investors may be looking to book profits accumulated during the nine-month global stocks advance.

"It's always worth bearing in mind the dire way in which equity markets were looking back in Q1 of 2009, how far the run higher has gone and the fact that any decision to book profits now is arguably looking rather prudent," said Chris Weston, institutional dealer at IG Markets.

Earlier, Asian markets fell as they responded to the previous session's falls on Wall Street and Europe, where sentiment had been knocked by mounting expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to withdraw its extraordinary liquidity measures sooner than anticipated and that interest rate increases may soon be on the agenda.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell 21.75, or 0.2 percent, to 10,142.05 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 171.75, or 0.8 percent, to 21,175.88. South Korea's Kospi eased 0.1 percent to 1,647.04.

Australia's index dropped 0.4 percent and China's Shanghai market dived 2.1 percent on worries a stronger U.S. dollar and new stock listings will further drain liquidity.

Elsewhere, oil prices rose above $73 a barrel on expectations the OPEC oil cartel will leave production unchanged at its meeting next week.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was up 75 cents to $73.40 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract fell 1 cent to settle at $72.65.

In the currency markets, the dollar's recent sharp advance against the euro came to a halt following the strong German data and as traders booked some gains.

The euro was up 0.3 percent at $1.4383, having fallen to a three and a half month low of $1.4305 Thursday. As recently as late November, the euro was trading at $1.5145 and many currency watchers were anticipating further gains.

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AP Business Writer Jeremiah Marquez in Hong Kong contributed to this report.