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Global markets remain cautious despite US rally

Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer

A man looks at an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Asian stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday as weak economic data, falling commodity prices and big losses on Wall Street shook investors. A deadly bombing in the U.S. also rattled confidence.(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

LONDON (AP) -- The sense of caution in financial markets continued Tuesday despite a run of positive U.S. economic and corporate news that helped Wall Street rebound from its worst day for almost six months.

A day after investors around the world were spooked by big falls in commodity prices — notably gold — as well as growing concern over the recovery U.S. and China, the world's two-largest economies, U.S. stocks clawed back some ground despite the unease engendered by the bombings in Boston.

However, European markets, which hadn't fallen as much as their counterparts in the U.S. on Monday, posted further declines Tuesday in the wake of a downbeat investor survey for Germany. The closely-watched ZEW index fell from 48.5 points to 36.3 in April in a sign of growing investor fears over the strength of the German recovery amid widespread debt problems in Europe.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was closed 0.4 percent lower at 7,682.58 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.7 percent to 3,685.79. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares ended 0.6 percent lower at 6,304.58.

Some of the concerns that dominated trading on Monday were eased by news that U.S. housing starts rose in March to a little over 1 million to a near five-year high. Subdued inflation for the month together with another solid increase in industrial production also helped shore up the market mood.

"Strong industrial production and housing starts data for March suggest that the U.S. economy saw a robust end to the first quarter, but nagging doubts persist about the sustainability of such impressive growth in the spring," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

And with Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson reporting better-than-expected first-quarter profits, the scene was set for U.S. stock indexes to recoup a chunk of their previous day's losses — the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.9 percent at 14,726.58 while the broader S&P 500 index rose 1 percent to 1,568.43.

A key focus over the past few days has been the gold price, which has fallen dramatically amid a welter of concerns, including fears that European governments may sell the precious metal as part of their debt-fighting measures.

By late-afternoon London time, it was trading 2.1 percent higher at $1,389.40 an ounce. Still, that's only a minor bounce back from Monday, when gold logged its biggest one-day decline in more than 30 years, tumbling $140.30, or 9 percent, to $1,361, just above its earlier low of $1,357.10.

"At some point gold could well be subjected to participants looking to own gold at cheaper levels than over the last few months," said David White, a trader at Spreadex. "But, critically, calling the bottom on any such process is hazardous at best."

The gold price isn't the only commodity that's taken a battering over recent days. Industrial metals have also faltered amid concerns over the global economic recovery, as has the price of oil. The benchmark New York crude rate was down again Tuesday, trading 48 cents lower at $88.23 a barrel.

Currency markets also remained volatile with the euro up 1.1 percent against the dollar, at $1.3178. Meanwhile, the dollar was 0.9 percent higher against the Japanese yen, at 97.77 yen.

The yen's decline comes a day after it rallied strongly in the previous session amid the global growth concerns — the Japanese currency is often considered a safe haven asset at times of market jitters.

Over the previous week or so, the yen had taken a battering, to the potential benefit of Japan's exporting powerhouses, due to the Bank of Japan's aggressive new monetary policy to get the country's moribund economy going again.

Earlier in Asia, stocks were mixed after being hit Monday by lower than anticipated Chinese economic growth figures. While Japan's Nikkei fell 0.4 percent to 13,221.44 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.5 percent to 21,672.03, benchmarks in South Korea and mainland China rose.