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Global stock markets mostly higher, Tokyo falls

TOKYO/HONG KONG--Global stock markets were mostly higher Tuesday as the Fed's vow to keep interest rates low offset weak economic indicators from China and Japan.

European stocks were higher in early trading. Germany's DAX gained 0.4 percent to 9,597.86 and France's CAC-40 rose 0.6 percent to 4,417.27. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.4 percent to 6,624.37.

Wall Street was set to gain with S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent at 1,867.20. Dow futures rose 0.2 percent to 16,399. Stock markets in the U.S. rose the day before after Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen said U.S. interest rates would stay low for some time and that momentum continued Tuesday.

Asian markets were mixed Tuesday as official data showed a slight pick-up in Chinese manufacturing while a closely watched survey showed Japanese business confidence at a more than six-year high.

Sentiment was also buoyed by comments from the head of the U.S. Federal Reserve underlining its commitment to monetary easing, while tensions in Ukraine eased as Russia partially withdrew troops from its border.

Tokyo fell 0.24 percent, or 35.84 points, to finish at 14,791.99 despite a fall in the yen against the dollar, while Japan ushered in its first sales tax hike since 1997. Sydney dipped 0.10 percent, or 5.6 points, to 5,389.2 and Seoul climbed 0.32 percent, or 6.37 points, to 1,991.98.

Hong Kong rallied 1.34 percent, or 297.48 points, to 22,448.54 and Shanghai added 0.70 percent, or 14.15 points, to 2,047.46.

China said its official purchasing managers index (PMI) of manufacturing activity came in at 50.3 for March, up slightly from February's eight-month low of 50.2. A figure above 50 points to growth while anything below indicates contraction. Economists had forecast the figure to remain unchanged.

β€œThe PMI index rose slightly in March and ended the trend of falling for three consecutive months ... it still indicates economic growth will stabilize in the future,” Zhang Liqun, an economist at the state-backed Development Research Center, was quoted as saying in a statement from the National Bureau of Statistics.

However, banking giant HSBC said its own PMI for the country had fallen to 48.0 last month from 48.5 in February, and worse than its initial estimate of 48.1.

A recent run of weak data from China β€” including on trade, investment and output β€” has fuelled speculation that policymakers will unveil measures to kickstart growth in the Asian economic giant and driver of global growth.

On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.82 percent, the S&P 500 added 0.79 percent and the Nasdaq jumped 1.04 percent.

Focus will now turn to the release Friday of U.S. non-farm payrolls data, which could provide clues about possible Fed plans for the bond-buying scheme at its next meeting.

Gold fetched US$1,284.41 an ounce at 1045 GMT compared with US$1,293.64 late Monday.

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