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China economy hopes give markets a lift

  • Article by: PAN PYLAS
  • Associated Press
  • November 22, 2012 - 5:53 AM

LONDON - An upbeat Chinese manufacturing survey helped offset the disappointment of another round of grim European figures to give markets a lift Thursday — on a day that will see trading seriously curtailed by the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

The optimism in the markets came in the wake of a manufacturing survey from HSBC. Its purchasing managers index (PMI), a gauge of activity, rose to a 13-month high of 50.4 for November from the previous month's 49.5. Readings above 50 denote growth.

"Strong manufacturing data from China provided a big enough lure to temp investors back in to equities," said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at stockbroker Interactive Investor.

Following an earlier advance in Asia, European stocks opened higher. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.5 percent at 5,783 while Germany's DAX rose 0.7 percent to 7,231. The CAC-40 in France was 0.3 percent higher at 3,486.

The gains in Europe came despite a survey showing that the 17-country eurozone remains in recession. Financial information company Markit said its composite PMI, which assesses the service sector as well as manufacturing, for the eurozone rose to 45.8 in November from 45.7 the month before. That signals further contraction in the eurozone economy, which is now in recession, officially defined as two straight quarters of negative growth.

"The slight rise clearly does nothing to alter our view that the recession has intensified in Q4," said Ben May, European economist at Capital Economics.

Over recent weeks, the focus of attention has been on two main issues — whether the White House can come to a deal with Congress on the budget and whether Greece will get its next batch of bailout cash.

Though a deal on either front has yet to be achieved, investors remain confident that their worst fears — a U.S. recession and a Greek exit from the euro — will be averted. A U.S. budget deal is expected to be achieved to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of next year, while Greece is tipped to finally get the approval for the release of the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

That confidence has boosted stocks this week as well as given the euro a boost. Europe's single currency was up a further 0.2 percent at $1.2876.

Earlier, Asian markets registered strong gains, boosted by the manufacturing news from China, a major market for many countries in the region.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1 percent to close at 21,743.20. South Korea's Kospi added 0.8 percent to 1,899.50 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 1 percent to 4,424.20.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.6 percent to close at 9,366.80 — its highest finish since May 2 — as a recently weakened yen provided a vital boost to the export-heavy index. The yen continued to fall back Thursday, with the dollar up 0.2 percent at 82.62 yen.

Oil prices were flat as traders weighed up Thursday's economic figures as well as the cease-fire in Gaza. Benchmark crude for January delivery was unchanged at $87.38 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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