A look at economic developments and activity in major stock markets around the world Thursday:
LONDON _ The European Central Bank's chief shocked markets by saying interest rates could be raised as soon as the next policy meeting in April _ far earlier than expected _ to fight inflation across the 17-nation eurozone.
Speaking after the bank left its main interest rate unchanged at the record low of 1 percent, President Jean-Claude Trichet said "strong vigilance" was warranted and that an interest rate increase next month was "possible" though "not certain."
LONDON _ Stocks regained their composure thanks to a drop in oil prices and hopes that U.S. employment is picking up.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 closed up 1.5 percent at 6,005 while Germany's DAX rose 0.6 percent to 7,226. The CAC-4o in Paris ended 0.7 percent higher at 4,060.
LONDON _ Retail sales in the 17 countries that use the euro rose in January for the first time in six months, official figures showed, in a tentative sign that consumers are finally confident enough to pick up spending.
TOKYO _ In Asia, South Korea's Kospi Composite Index, rose a hefty 2.2 percent to 1,970.66 after the government said industrial output grew for the 19th straight month in January, while Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average climbed 0.9 percent to 10,586.02.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was 0.3 percent higher to 23,122.42 but mainland Chinese shares fell as profit taking in the afternoon offset morning gains. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 2,902.98, while the Shenzhen Composite Index lost 1.6 percent to 1,272.00.
PARIS _ France's state statistics office says unemployment fell slightly in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 9.6 percent.
The figure was below the 9.8 percent joblessness rate in the third quarter, but remains above pre-financial crisis levels.
MADRID _ Spain raised euro3.8 billion ($5.25 billion) in an oversubscribed auction of 3- and 5-year bonds but at higher interest rates that reflected investor worries over public finances in Europe.