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VOL. 128 | NO. 104 | Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Strong US Economic Data Push World Markets Up

CARLO PIOVANO | Associated Press

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LONDON (AP) — Rising home prices and consumer confidence in the U.S. pushed global stock markets higher on Tuesday as investors welcomed evidence that the world's largest economy is improving steadily.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller survey showed U.S. home prices rose 10.9 percent in March, the most since April 2006. Meanwhile, the Conference Board's measure of consumer confidence rose to a five-year high.

The figures are particularly encouraging because they indicate that U.S. consumer spending — which accounts for about three-quarters of activity in the world's largest economy — is firmly recovering.

In recent weeks, stronger economic indicators actually hurt stock markets because they raised worries that the Federal Reserve might end its monetary stimulus program earlier than expected. But investors seemed to be looking past such concerns on Tuesday.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100, which was closed for a public holiday Monday, rose 1.6 percent to close at 6,762.01. Germany's DAX advanced 1.2 percent to 8,480.87, while France's CAC-40 rose 1.4 percent to 4,050.56.

European markets were also supported by comments made by one of the European Central Bank's policymakers, Peter Praet, who hinted the central bank could cut interest rates again.

In the German daily Handelsblatt, Praet wrote that "the ECB has signaled that by cutting the interest rate to a historical low of 0.5 percent, the possibility for a further easing of monetary policy by using the classic instrument of the interest rate has not yet been exhausted."

ECB President Mario Draghi has said in the past that the central bank stands ready to act in case the economy worsens.

Wall Street traded higher following a three-day holiday weekend. The Dow Jones industrial was up 0.7 percent to 15,406.57, while the S&P 500 was 0.6 percent higher at 1,659.32.

Markets had started the day strongly thanks to an improvement in market sentiment in Japan. The Nikkei has been dictating markets' direction since Thursday, when it plummeted more than 7 percent after interest rates on the country's benchmark 10-year bond spiked to above 1 percent for the first time in a year. The swing in Japanese bonds unnerved investors at a time when Japan's already overburdened government finances are vulnerable to rises in interest rates.

The Nikkei 225 index on Tuesday rose 1.2 percent to close at 14,311.98 as the yen slipped against the dollar, helping Japanese exporters; the benchmark fell 3 percent on Tuesday. Overall, however, the index has soared 37 percent this year, a show of investor support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his aggressive policies aimed at reversing years of economic malaise and deflation.

Elsewhere in Asia, the gains in Japan helped hoist other markets higher. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.1 percent to 22,924.25. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.3 percent to 1,986.22. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.2 percent to 4,970.70.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was up $1.08 to $95.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2867 from $1.2934 late Monday in Europe. The dollar rose to 102.03 yen from 100.99.


Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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