LONDON (AP) -- A positive start to the U.S. corporate earnings season and a sharp improvement in Chinese trade boosted most world markets Thursday. The euro, meanwhile, jumped on news the European Central Bank decided not to cut interest rates.
Stock indexes rose after a handful of better-than-expected results from U.S. companies sparked gains on Wall Street. Consumer products maker Helen of Troy, whose brands include Dr. Scholl's and Vidal Sassoon, and electronic payments processor Global Payments reported higher earnings.
A rebound in trade figures for China, the world's second-largest economy, also suggested a recovery in global demand, lifting investment sentiment. Export growth more than quadrupled in December from November's level, to 14.1 percent. Imports rose 6 percent after failing to grow at all in November.
The positive sentiment was dented only by a U.S. government report showing weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose last week.
European indexes trimmed or lost earlier gains by the close of trading. Britain's FTSE 100 ended up 0.1 percent to 6,101.51 while Germany's DAX edged down 0.2 percent to 7,708.47. France's CAC-40 shed 0.4 percent to 3,703.12.
Stocks rose on Wall Street, with the Dow up 0.2 percent at 13,420.07 and the broader S&P 500 0.3 percent higher at 1,465.44.
The euro jumped 1.4 percent to $1.3244 after the ECB left its interest rate at the record low of 0.75 percent and said nobody on its governing board had called for a cut. A currency's value usually tracks expectations of interest rates.
In a press conference, ECB President Mario Draghi said the eurozone economy should start to grow again later this year. He added, however, that the region has yet to reach a turning point and that governments must press on with savings cuts and economic reforms.
Meanwhile, shares in Nokia jumped 12 percent after the struggling Finnish handset maker said its fourth-quarter sales exceeded its own expectations. The company has been in dire straits, losing market share rapidly to Apple and Samsung in recent years, so any improvement in sales is a boost to its hopes of stabilizing its business.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.7 percent to close at 10,652.64. South Korea's Kospi added 0.8 percent to 2,006.80. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.3 percent to 4,723. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand also rose.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent to 23,354.31 following a decision by the China Securities Regulatory Commission to allow some initial public offerings of mainland companies to be carried out in Hong Kong.
The move is an effort to clear a backlog of IPOs that the understaffed CSRC cannot handle, said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong.
A weakening yen helped propel Japan's export-reliant carmakers higher. As the dollar rose another 0.4 percent against the yen, to 88.19 yen, shares in Mazda Motor Corp. soared 10.2 percent. Honda Motor Co. gained 2.5 percent.
Hong Kong-listed Aluminum Corp. of China surged 6.5 percent a day after U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa forecast demand would grow 7 percent in 2013, up from a 6 percent gain in 2012.
Benchmark crude oil contract for February delivery was up 89 cents to $93.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 5 cents to close at $93.10 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.
- Investment & Company Information