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Europe, China stimulus hopes a shot in arm for int'l investors

SEOUL/HONG KONG--World stock markets gained Wednesday as investors anticipated further stimulus measures from Europe and China while U.S. economic data reinforced recovery hopes in the world's largest economy.

Germany's DAX was up 1.1 percent at 9,443.09 and France's CAC-40 jumped 0.9 percent to 4,381.54. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent to 6,636.54.

Wall Street was set to gain with S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent at 1,862.90. Dow futures rose 0.2 percent to 16,335.

Investors welcomed European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's speech on Tuesday in Paris that monetary policy should support the economies of countries that use the euro.

“This is a clear sign that the ECB will continue to hold its finger over the rates button,” IG strategist Evan Lucas said in a market commentary.

“The bank is looking to find a way to chase out funds locked up in wealth products that will then be redirected to areas of the economy that are looking for growth funding.”

Some investors are also banking that China's leaders will introduce pro-growth measures to prop up a slowing economy. A preliminary reading of China's manufacturing, released Monday, showed activity at an eight-month low in March.

Asian markets mostly rose Wednesday following a rally on Wall Street as dealers welcomed a better-than-expected jump in U.S. consumer confidence to a six-year high, while there was muted response to a missile test by North Korea.

Tokyo added 0.37 percent, or 53.97 points, to finish at 14,477.16, buoyed by investors picking up stocks to lock in dividends before the new tax year starts in April.

Sydney gained 0.75 percent, or 40.2 points, to 5,376.8 and Seoul rose 1.19 percent, or 23.06 points, to 1,964.31.

Hong Kong gained 0.72 percent, or 155.43 points, to 21,887.75.

However, Shanghai slipped 0.18 percent, or 3.64 points, to 2,063.67.

The three main indexes in New York enjoyed a rally on Tuesday, capping a two-session losing streak, after a closely watched confidence survey showed confidence among American consumers surging.

The Conference Board's index for March confidence came in at 82.3 — its highest since January 2008 — from 78.3 in February and far better than the 78.9 expected.

The Dow rose 0.56 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.44 percent and Nasdaq added 0.19 percent.

Asian traders seemed unmoved by news that North Korea test-fired two medium-range missiles early Wednesday, as U.S. President Barack Obama hosted a landmark Japan-South Korea summit.

South Korea's defense ministry said the missiles flew 650 kilometers (400 miles) into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), upping the ante after a series of short-range missile and rocket launches by the North in recent weeks.

However, while Washington condemned the tests as “troubling and provocative,” regional markets maintained their uptrend.

Gold fetched US$1,314.55 an ounce at 1050 GMT compared with US$1,313.10 late Tuesday.

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