World stocks rise on Greek debt, US economy hopes

World stocks rise on growing hopes for Greek crisis fix, optimism for US recovery

Associated Press
World stocks rise on hopes for Greece, US economy
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A man walks in front of the electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. Asian stocks rose strongly on Friday after encouraging U.S. housing and employment reports sent Wall Street to its highest level this year and added to growing optimism of a recovery in the world's No. 1 economy. Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.9 percent to 9,412.27. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

HONG KONG (AP) -- World stocks rose Friday as optimism grew that Greece's debt crisis would soon be resolved and upbeat U.S. economic data added to evidence of a recovery in the world's No. 1 economy.

Oil extended gains above $102 a barrel and the dollar strengthened against the euro and yen.

In early European trading, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.4 percent at 5,915.42 and Germany's DAX rose 0.8 percent to 6,803.14. The CAC-40 in France was 1.2 percent higher at 3,430.55.

U.S. stocks looked set for a flat open following a big rally the day before. Dow futures were up less than 0.1 percent to 12,874 while broader S&P 500 futures lost 0.1 percent to 1,354.30.

In Asia, Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.6 percent to close at 9,384.17. Seoul's Kospi rose 1.3 percent to end at 2,023.47 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 1 percent to finish at 21,491.62.

Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.3 percent to 4,195.90. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand and India also rose.

Investors in Asia took heart following solid gains Thursday on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average closed at its highest level in four years. The gains also pushed away fears that long-running bailout talks for debt-stricken Greece might collapse and result in the country defaulting on its debts next month.

Stocks rose after reports showed unemployment benefit applications dropped for the fourth time in five weeks to a four-year low and a rise in building permits suggested growing confidence about homebuying. Another report showed U.S. factories boosted output last month and December was their best month of growth in five years.

"All the data coming out from the U.S. is good, especially last night the job data was surprising," said Jackson Wong, a vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

Investors are also growing more upbeat ahead of a meeting Monday at which European finance ministers will discuss the Greek bailout and a bond swap agreement with Greece's private creditors.

"Across Asia, markets are trekking higher on optimism that Greece will be able to avoid a default," said Stan Shamu, a research analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne.

Chinese stocks ended flat after spending the day swinging between positive and negative territory. The Shanghai Composite Index was practically unchanged at 2,357.18.

Investors remain skeptical that authorities in Beijing will move more aggressively to prop up slowing economic growth by loosening credit curbs put in place to counter inflation and cool housing costs, Wong said.

Shares of Billabong International Ltd. rose 46 percent in Sydney after the Australian surfwear retailer said it had received a takeover offer from TPG Capital, though was uncertain if any deal would go ahead. It also said it would shed 400 jobs worldwide and close dozens of unprofitable stores as it tries to restore its flagging fortunes in a tough retail market.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 79.07 Japanese yen from 78.88 yen in late trading Thursday while the euro fell to $1.3123 from 1.3143.

Benchmark crude was up 53 cents at $102.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 52 cents to settle at $102.32 on Thursday.

Brent crude was up 46 cents to $120.57 per barrel in London.

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