U.S. Markets closed

World stocks perk up ahead of ECB meeting

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

A woman walks in front of the electronic stock board of a securities firm showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 131.75 points to 8513.75 in Tokyo Wednesday, June 6, 2012. Asian stock markets perked up Wednesday after U.S. service companies, which employ most of the American workforce, grew at a slightly faster pace in May. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

BANGKOK (AP) -- World stock markets perked up Wednesday, as a meeting of the European Central Bank raised hopes for some type of action to ease the continent's debt and banking crisis.

The meeting of the ECB's governing council, to be held later in the day, gave hope to traders downcast by a dismal slew of economic data, including a disappointing U.S. jobs report and a monthslong slowdown in Chinese manufacturing.

European shares rose in early trading. The FTSE 100 in Britain, where markets were closed Monday and Tuesday for Jubilee celebrations, gained 1.5 percent to 5,336.86. Germany's DAX rose 1.9 percent to 6,084.43 and France's CAC-40 gained 2 percent to 3,045.93.

Wall Street appeared set for gains, with Dow Jones industrial futures rising 0.8 percent to 12,222 and S&P 500 futures adding 1 percent to 1,298.

Asian stocks, meanwhile, rose following the release of data Tuesday by the Institute for Supply Management that showed U.S. non-manufacturing activity edging up to 53.7 last month from an April reading of 53.5.

That is important because U.S. service companies employ roughly 90 percent of American workers — and it marked the 29th straight month of expansion for the sector.

But while a reading above 50 indicates expansion, analysts remained cautious about reading too much into the latest figure.

"Any improvement is good and growth is growth but 53.7 still falls short of the 55 mark that we've always regarded as the dividing line between earnest growth and aimless drifting," analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a report.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1.8 percent to close at 8,533.53. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.4 percent to 18,520.53. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.3 percent up to 4,055.30.

Benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan also moved higher, but those in mainland China fell. Markets in South Korea were closed for a public holiday.

Some analysts said investors were hanging on to hopes for action by central banks and other authorities to stimulate growth, including a new round of "quantitative easing" by the U.S. Federal Reserve. That's when the Fed buys Treasury bonds to drive interest rates lower.

"Right now what is keeping the market alive is just accommodative policies from governments around the world," said Lee Kok Joo, head of research at Phillip Securities in Singapore.

"If we look at market activity closely, the volume doesn't seem to be so strong. There are still a lot of people who are not believers yet who are just staying on the sidelines, waiting for clearer visibility."

That might come June 17, when Greece holds elections that could determine whether the country will leave the euro currency union. A messy exit from the currency bloc by Greece would be sure to roil financial markets.

Some traders also said a decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday to lower its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 3.5 percent stoked hopes that central banks elsewhere would do the same.

Hong Kong-listed blue chip stocks performed strongly. China Mobile Ltd. rose 2.9 percent and Henderson Land Development Co. gained 4.9 percent. CNOOC, also known as China National Offshore Oil Corp., added 3.8 percent.

Japanese vehicle makers recouped ground lost in recent selling. Mazda Motor Corp. added 4.3 percent, Yamaha Motor Co. jumped 4.6 percent and Isuzu Motors Ltd. rose 3.9 percent.

Later Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve will release its so-called Beige Book, a survey of businesses across the United States, and the Labor Department will release first-quarter productivity data.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was up 97 cents to $85.27 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 31 cents to settle at $84.29 in New York on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2516 from $1.2446 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.12 yen from 78.73 yen.

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