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European stocks lifted by retailers, automakers

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[January 06, 2009]  LONDON (AP) -- European stock markets rose modestly Tuesday despite Wall Street's setback from the day before as some relatively positive corporate news helped offset concerns about the global economy.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 35.76 points, or 0.8 percent, at 4,615.40, while Germany's DAX rose 61.48 points, or 1.2 percent, to 5,045.47. France's CAC-40 rose 38.27 points, or 1.1 percent, to 3.398.19.

DonutsIn Britain, the FTSE was buoyed by retailers after some better than expected trading updates. Though Next PLC and Debenhams PLC reported falling sales, investors were relieved that their drops over the crucial Christmas-New Year trading period were not as bad as many had feared. As a result, Next shares rose 6 percent, while others like Marks & Spencer PLC, which releases its Christmas update on Wednesday, rose 3 percent.

In Germany, the DAX was lifted by confirmation that luxury carmaker Porsche AG had lifted its stake in Volkswagen AG to over 50 percent. Volkswagen, which briefly became the world's biggest company by market value late last year, after hedge funds got caught short of stock, saw its share price rise above 6 percent, while those in Porsche were up 1 percent.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 37.72 points, or 0.4 percent, to 9,080.84 as a weaker yen boosted exporters like Sony Corp. and Canon Inc. Sony jumped over 7 percent, while Canon was up 5 percent. Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp. added over 1 percent despite announcing it was halting production at all 12 of its Japanese plants for 11 days over February and March.


After a disastrous 2008, Asian stocks have shown strength of late. Analysts say foreign investors, who pulled billion of dollars from the region last year, have begun trickling back amid speculation that government policies to shore up a decaying global economy could help Asian equities outperform in 2009.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 3 percent to 1,937.15, as property firms got a boost after a top official said the government would increase possible financing methods for developers and improve access to low-cost housing.

South Korea's Kospi rose 1.8 percent and Australia's key benchmark added 1.5 percent. Hong Kong was the only major regional market to fall, with the Hang Seng index down 53.80 points, or 0.4 percent, at 15,509.51 points.

Despite signs that global stock markets have put 2008's rout behind them, investors remain fully aware that the economic gloom will hang around for a long time to come.

A raft of economic news this week will likely provide markets with their first hurdles of 2009 to overcome.

"The market still seems to be in a phase of finding its feet for the New Year and with readings such as the non-farm payrolls, it's clear as to why the uncertainty is prevailing," said Jimmy Yates, a dealer at CMC Markets.

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Wall Street was expected to claw back most of Monday's losses at the open later. The Dow Jones industrial average, which fell 81.80 points on Monday, was expected to rise 60 points, or 0.7 percent, to 8,978. Meanwhile, the wider Standard & Poor's 500 futures were up 7.40 points, or 0.8 percent, at 934.80.

U.S. investors remained encouraged by President-elect Barack Obama's calls for an economic stimulus package that reportedly could include as much as $300 billion in tax cuts.

Oil prices were slightly higher amid ongoing concerns about Israel's ground offensive in Gaza and mounting worries about gas supplies in Europe as the dispute between Ukraine and Russia escalated.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery was up 79 cents at $49.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.47 cents to settle at $48.81 a barrel overnight.

The dollar was 0.3 percent higher at 93.66 yen, while the euro traded 1.4 percent lower at $1.3424 as lower inflation in the 16-nation single currency zone stoked expectations that the European Central Bank may cut borrowing costs aggressively next week.

Consumer price inflation in the euro-zone fell to 1.6 percent in the year to December, down from 2.1 percent in November and below the European Central Bank's target of "below but close to 2.0 percent".


"In all then, nothing here to stop the ECB from cutting interest rates further next week and beyond," said Ben May, European economist at Capital Economics.

[Associated Press; By PAN PYLAS]

AP Business Writer Jeremiah Marquez in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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