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World stocks up on US data, Japan stimulus hopes

MUMBAI/TOKYO--World stock markets pushed higher Wednesday on signs of a pickup in the U.S. economy and expectations of further stimulus in Japan.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 led the gains, rising 1 percent to 14,946.32 after a weak outlook for companies raised hopes the Bank of Japan would launch additional monetary stimulus in coming months.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.3 percent at 22,523.94 and South Korea's KOSPI edged 0.3 percent higher to 1,997.25.

In China, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.6 percent to 2,155.70 as investors continued to shrug off two reports that signaled weakness in manufacturing. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.3 percent to 5,403.30.

Markets have been optimistic since Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen vowed to keep interest rates low and a survey showed an improvement in U.S. manufacturing activity, with the news apparently outweighing China's weak manufacturing reports.

“If sentiment is a key component in driving price around, I should think these markets can continue higher,” Chris Weston, IG's chief strategist said in a market commentary.

European markets opened with modest gains Wednesday as investors waited for a private payrolls report in the U.S. that could indicate the strength of job creation.

Germany's DAX was up 0.3 percent to 9,628.50 and Britain's FTSE 100 edged 0.1 percent higher to 6,655.94. France's CAC-40 gained 0.1 percent at 4,428.78.

Futures augured gains on Wall Street. Dow futures were up 0.2 percent at 16,480. S&P 500 futures added 0.2 percent to 1,880.90.

Beijing said at the start of the trading day that its official purchasing managers index (PMI) had ticked up in March after hitting an eight-month low in February, beating expectations.

Markit Economics said its eurozone PMI for March stood at 53.0. The figure is down from February's 53.2, but the average reading over the first quarter as a whole was 53.4, which it said was the “the best outcome since the second quarter of 2011.”

A reading above 50 denotes expansion while anything below points to contraction.

Later, the U.S. Institute for Supply Management said its PMI hit 53.7 from 53.2 the previous month. ISM also said comments from businesses surveyed “reflect favorable demand and good business conditions.”

Wall Street surged on the upbeat numbers. The S&P 500 jumped 0.70 percent to its first record close since March 7, while the Dow added 0.46 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 1.64 percent.

Investors will be closely watching the payrolls report for a better handle on the state of the U.S. economy following weak readings at the start of the year caused by severe cold across much of the country.

Gold fetched US$1,283.33 an ounce at 1034 GMT compared with US$1,284.41 late Tuesday.

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