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Global stocks lifted by China trade, Yellen stance

SEOUL/ HONG KONG--Global stock markets were mostly higher Thursday after China's trade improved and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen vowed low interest rates would continue until the U.S. job market is healthy.

European shares opened higher, with Britain's FTSE 100 up 0.5 percent to 6,831.15. Germany's DAX rose 0.6 percent to 9,577.13 and the CAC-40 in France climbed 0.6 percent to 4,473.75.

Wall Street appeared to set for a steady opening with Dow Jones futures and S&P futures both up 0.1 percent.

Yellen told lawmakers Wednesday that the U.S. job market is “far from satisfactory.” She said the Fed will begin increasing interest rates only when there is enough progress in restoring full employment and when inflation is back up to its target of 2 percent.

Yellen's comments appeared to ease concerns that the Fed might move too quickly to raise interest rates.

Adding to the upbeat sentiment was China's April trade data that showed an improvement in exports. Exports rose 0.9 percent from the previous year, compared with a 6.6 percent decline in March. Imports also grew after a contraction in March but at a subdued level.

“While the data didn't shoot the lights out, it showed signs of a recovery and that's been enough to encourage some buying today,” Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG, said in a commentary.

The figures come a month after Customs reported that China's trade volumes fell dramatically in March, which analysts blamed on the continued impact of fake reporting of exports seen in early 2013.

“China's trade data show signs of recovery but continue to understate the true health of the export sector,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics in Singapore, wrote in reaction to the April figures.

The figures lifted Shanghai stocks but dealers said uncertainty over the domestic economy may cap gains.

In Asia, Tokyo reversed the previous day's fall to close up 0.93 percent, or 130.33 points, at 14,163.78.

“It's a rebound from yesterday's sharp fall — the market is getting support from a brisk session on Wall Street,” said Tokai Tokyo Securities strategist Seiichi Suzuki.

Seoul ended up 0.55 percent, or 10.72 points, at 1,950.60 while upbeat Australian jobs figures saw Sydney add 41 points, or 0.75 percent to close at 5,476.8.

Hong Kong rose 0.42 percent, or 90.86 points, to 21,837.12 while Shanghai added 0.26 percent, or 5.19 points, to 2,015.27.

“It has been a fairly busy day in Asia, with investors focusing on Australian jobs and China trade balance data,” said IG market strategist Stan Shamu.

Chinese stocks rose after the release of April trade data, which showed exports and imports rising marginally, rebounding from sharp declines the month before, with the country reporting a second straight trade surplus.

Gold was US$1,292.06 an ounce at 1055 GMT, down from US$1,311.59 late Wednesday.

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