SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stocks were mostly higher Thursday on upbeat corporate earnings and rising Chinese factory output after the chairwoman of the U.S. Federal Reserve said it will be patient about increasing interest rates.
KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 6,933.91 while Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent to 11,249.32. France's CAC 40 gained 0.2 percent to 4,891.19. Futures augured a tepid start for Wall Street with Dow futures up 0.1 percent and S&P futures up 0.2 percent.
GERMAN CONFIDENCE: Sentiment in Europe was boosted by an increase in consumer sentiment in the 19-country eurozone in February. In particular, a survey in Germany showed consumer optimism in Europe's largest economy rose to its highest since 2001, when the global economy was buoyed by the dot-com boom. It said the main factor was a drop in energy costs, which increase disposable income.
CHINA FACTOR: News was also positive in Asia, where the preliminary version of HSBC Corp.'s purchasing managers' index showed China's manufacturing activity edged up to a four-month high in February. The index rose to 50.1 points from 49.7 in January on a 100-point scale in which numbers above 50 show activity expanding. HSBC economist Qu Hongbin said it showed "marginal improvement" in manufacturing heading into the Lunar New Year holiday.
DATA WATCH: Investors awaited data to assess the strength of the U.S. economic recovery, with the world's largest economy set to report consumer prices for January and weekly unemployment benefits. Economists expected that cheaper gas would drive the consumer price index down for a third straight month. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply in last Thursday's report, a sign that a recent string of strong job gains may continue.
FED PATIENCE: Meanwhile, Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen's remarks in her second appearance before Congress in two days supported the view that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates because too many Americans are still unemployed, wage growth is sluggish and inflation is too low. That is a positive for stock markets overall.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "China's manufacturing PMI surpassed expectations in February," said analysts from Mizuho Bank in a report. "Meanwhile, Yellen's measured tone yesterday suggests that the Fed is unlikely to tighten policy rates aggressively this year. ... All this was sufficient to provide some improvement in sentiment."
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.1 percent to 18,785.79 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent to 24,902.06. China's Shanghai Composite Index jumped 2.2 percent to 3,298.36. South Korea's Kospi inched up 0.1 percent to 1,993.08. But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,908.50. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mostly lower while stocks in New Zealand were higher.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 57 cents to $50.42 a barrel in New York. On Wednesday, the contract rose $1.71 to $50.99 after the U.S. Energy Department reported diesel and gasoline inventories fell more than expected, indicating a pickup in demand.
CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 118.86 yen from Wednesday's 118.87 yen, while the euro slipped to $1.1318 from $1.1361.