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World markets climb on central bank expectations

Youkyung Lee, AP Business Writer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- World stock markets mostly rose Monday as weaker-than-expected U.S. growth added to expectations that central banks will continue easy monetary policies to support economic recovery.

In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent at 6,433.02 and Germany's DAX added 0.6 percent to 7,862.89. France's CAC 40 rose 0.8 percent to 3,839.31.

Futures augured gains on Wall Street. Dow futures rose 0.3 percent to 14,694 and S&P 500 futures advanced 0.3 percent to 1,581.60.

The U.S. government said Friday that world's largest economy expanded 2.5 percent in the first quarter over a year earlier, falling short of expectations of 3 percent growth and compounding worries about the strength of global growth.

The report came after Japan said its consumer prices fell 0.9 percent in March, underlining challenges to the government's efforts to pull the economy out of a long spell of debilitating deflation. Earlier this month, China reported a slowdown in growth for the first quarter.

The downbeat reports were tempered by expectations the European Central Bank will either lower interest rates or expand financial support for the 17-country euro area at its meeting Thursday, said Lim Ho-sang, a Seoul-based economist at Samsung Futures. The U.S. growth figure also reinforced the view that the Federal Reserve won't rush to end its current policy of record low interest rates.

The easy money polices of central banks have boosted stock markets because returns on bonds and other fixed interest assets are at low levels.

In Asia, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6 percent to 5,125.80 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged up 0.3 percent to 22,580.77. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 1,940.70. Markets in mainland China and Japan were closed for holidays.

Investors are also waiting for more data to better assess the health of the U.S. private sector as the weaker-than-expected growth of the U.S. economy largely stemmed from lower government spending. U.S. March housing sales and April employment figures are scheduled to be released this week.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 15 cents to $93.16 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 64 cents to $93 a barrel on Friday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3090 from $1.3029. The dollar fell to 97.69 yen from 98.03 yen.