World stocks tentative ahead of Europe data

Asian stocks gain on China manufacturing, Europe mostly down ahead of economic data

Associated Press
Stocks gain on economic indicators, US earnings
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A man looks at his cellphone at an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. Asian stock markets were mostly higher Thursday, supported by Congress averting a U.S. government default and a pickup in China's manufacturing in January. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

BANGKOK (AP) -- World stock markets were mixed Thursday, with Asian markets supported by a pickup in China's factory production ahead of the release of manufacturing and services sector data in Europe.

Stocks in Europe were mostly lower in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 was nearly unchanged at 6,198.64. Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent to 7,684.14 and France's CAC-40 shed 0.2 percent to 3,718.97.

Wall Street appeared headed for a day of muted trading, with Dow Jones industrial futures barely changed at 13,721 while S&P 500 futures fell 0.3 percent to 1,486.

Stock markets in Asia got a boost from HSBC Bank's preliminary survey on China's monthly manufacturing. Its index rose to a two-year high of 51.9 in January from 51.5 in December. A reading above 50 indicates expansion on a scale of 100.

Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said before the survey's release that they expected China to beat estimates. "Manufacturing sentiment should have been boosted by previous fiscal measures and optimism towards the new government" following the once in a decade leadership change late last year, the bank said in an email.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.3 percent to close at 10,620.87. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.5 percent to 4,810.20, its highest close since May 2011. Benchmarks in Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines also rose.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent to 23,598.80 and mainland Chinese shares also fell. However, analysts said the losses were due to profit-taking after recent rallies, not disappointment with China's manufacturing numbers.

"The stock markets already shot up a lot," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. "It's just some profit-taking."

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.8 percent to 1,963.69 after the Bank of Korea said the country's economy expanded 0.4 percent in the final three months of last year, falling short of the bank's 0.8 percent growth forecast.

Investors were encouraged by developments in Washington, where the U.S. House of Representatives voted to avert the imminent threat of a government default by suspending the debt limit — the amount of money the government is allowed to borrow.

The law requires that Congress approve raising the amount the government can borrow to pay its obligations as the debt exceeds its limit, currently at $16.4 trillion. That's the cumulative amount the country owes as a result of routinely spending more than it collects in taxes.

On Wednesday, IBM single-handedly lifted the Dow Jones industrial average to a five-year high. The tech giant's quarterly earnings beat Wall Street's expectations, thanks to its lucrative Internet-based "cloud" computing business and sales of software services.

Benchmark oil for January was up 25 cents to $95.48 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.45, or 1.5 percent, to finish at $95.23 per barrel, the first decline of more than 1 percent since Dec. 21.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.334 from $1.3321 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 89.53 yen from 88.66 yen.

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Folllow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

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