FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Asian and European stocks rallied Wednesday as a modest rebound in crude oil prices and hopes for more stimulus in China encouraged investor optimism.
Wall Street also appeared headed higher ahead of the New York open, offering the prospect of a pre-Christmas stocking-stuffer for investors.
KEEPING SCORE: European stocks jumped on their last full day of trading before Christmas — on Thursday, many markets only open for half the trading session while Germany's DAX won't open at all. On Wednesday, the DAX rose 1.8 percent to 10,676 while France's CAC 40 was up 1.9 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 added 2.1 percent to 6,212.61. U.S. stocks were poised to open higher, with Dow futures gaining 0.5 percent to 17,449.00 while broader S&P 500 futures rose 0.4 percent to 2,044.25. U.S. markets also have a shortened day on Thursday.
HOLIDAY CALM: Overall, financial markets have lacked strong direction as traders take time off and the flow of major economic releases slows over the holiday period. Low volumes can mean sharper swings and choppy trading.
QUOTABLE: News out of China that top officials are considering more economic stimulus has helped support share prices, said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK. "Stocks have continued to move in their choppy range of the past few weeks with little in the way of new catalysts to spark a strong move one way or the other, but once again it's been the prospect of further stimulus measures, as yet unknown from China, in the coming weeks that has helped put a floor under recent proceedings," Hewson wrote in a note.
ENERGY: Oil prices are staging a recovery that's helping lift energy and raw materials stocks. U.S. crude futures rose 63 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $36.78 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, added 70 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $36.81 a barrel in London. Prices have bounced back a little from 11-year lows earlier in the week. Low oil prices hurt energy company profits and can signal weaker demand in the economy.
ASIAN SCORECARD: Most regional benchmarks ended higher. Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index climbed 1 percent to close at 22,040.59 while South Korea's Kospi gained 0.3 percent to 1,999.22. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China lost 0.4 percent to 3,636.09 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 5,141.80. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 120.84 yen from 121.01 in the previous day's trading. The euro edged lower to $1.0916 from $1.0951.