Markets solid as US shoppers hit the mall

AP News
Posted: Nov 23, 2012 1:53 PM
Markets solid as US shoppers hit the mall

LONDON (AP) — Europe's squabbling leaders failed to douse the prevailing optimism in the markets this week, with investors hopeful about the start of the U.S. shopping season and an imminent decision to give Greece billions more in cash to avoid bankruptcy.

Stocks pushed higher through Friday even though a budget summit of EU leaders in Brussels broke up without agreement. As has been the case for the best part of this month, investors are more concerned about economic developments in the U.S. and the bailout of Greece than with the finer details of EU agriculture spending.

"We sense a willingness on the part of investors, however cautiously, to pursue some more gains, before the books are closed ahead of the yearly roll," said Herve Goulletquer, an analyst at Calyon.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 0.5 percent at 5,819, while Germany's DAX rose 0.9 percent to 7,309. The CAC-40 in France was also 0.6 percent higher at 3,528.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average broke through the 13,000 mark again, up 1.3 percent at 13,009 while the broader S&P 500 index rose the same amount to 1,409.

Traders in the U.S. returned to their desks Friday, albeit for a shortened session following the Thanksgiving holiday in fairly bullish mood with regard to the start of the holiday shopping season.

A strong "Black Friday" — so called as it is when many U.S. retailers traditionally turn their first profit of the year — will be used to help predict the momentum of the U.S. economy. Anecdotal evidence and footfall figures over the coming days will be closely monitored. The retail sector accounts for about 70 percent of the world's biggest economy.

Investors will also be monitoring developments over Greece in the coming days amid expectations the cash-strapped country will get the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy. Finance ministers are due to meet again on Monday.

Cyprus is also in focus as investors awaited developments on its bailout discussions with representatives from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The improved appetite for risk continued to buoy the euro, which was up a further 0.7 percent at $1.2972.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.8 percent to 21,913.98 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.6 percent to 1,911.33. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

Oil prices tracked equities higher with the benchmark New York rate up 92 cents to $88.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.