World stocks rise as data shows U.S. layoffs easing
BANGKOK -- World stocks rose today amid improving U.S. jobs and manufacturing data and the expected approval in Italy of an austerity plan intended to get the country's finances under control.
Benchmark oil hovered near $94 per barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.
European shares rose in early trading, following gains in Asia. Britain's FTSE added 0.3 percent to 5,415.04. Germany's DAX inched up 0.3 percent to 5,745.07. France's CAC-40 was steady at 2,997.89. Wall Street also appeared ready to head higher. Dow Jones industrial futures rose 0.4 percent to 11,872 while S&P 500 futures gained 0.6 percent to 1,218.80.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index was 0.3 percent higher to close at 8,401.72. South Korea's Kospi rose 1.2 percent to 1,839.96 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.4 percent to 18,285.39. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia also rose.
Mainland China shares ended a six-session losing streak, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gaining 2 percent to close at 2,224.84.
Analysts stopped short of calling the gains a recovery, as trading was light ahead of the holidays. The Hang Seng, snapping a six-day losing streak, was higher on a technical rebound, said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.
"The market dropped for six straight days. Now it may find some excuse for a technical rebound. So the U.S. job figures may be the excuse," Yip said.
Later today, the Italian government will hold a critical confidence vote in the lower house of parliament on a multibillion euro austerity package.
Despite widespread opposition, the plan aimed at persuading bond markets that the country can emerge from the widening European debt crisis is expected to pass. The country now sits on a 1.9 trillion euros ($2.5 trillion) powder keg of debt that could spark a global economic recession if a default occurs.
"While the plan will very likely get the required support from MPs, it will be important to see whether amendments are proposed in terms of spending cuts and implementation schedule, in particular," Frederik Ducrozet, an economist at Credit Agricole CIB, said in a research note.
Signs emerged that the Chinese central bank may have intervened in the currency market by offering dollars to support the Chinese yuan, which has been weakening in recent sessions. That raised speculation that authorities may plan more market-boosting measures.
The yuan strengthened to a record 6.3294 against the U.S. dollar, but later eased to 6.3446. Weakness in the yuan could raise tensions with countries such as the U.S. that complain it is already undervalued.
Among Japanese stocks, online game firm Gree rose 0.8 percent after Nomura Holdings rated the stock a "buy" on an expected increase in profits, Kyodo News Agency reported. Major automakers fell, including Toyota Motor Corp., down 1.8 percent, and Mazda Motor Corp. dropping 2.2 percent.
Retailers led Australia stocks down. JB Hi-Fi tumbled 14.9 percent after surprising investors with a profit warning late Thursday. Myer Holdings fell 2.6 percent.
Investor sentiment rose after the U.S. government reported that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week to 366,000, the fewest since May 2008. That's a sign that layoffs are easing, a first step toward bringing down the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 8.6 percent.
Traders were also encouraged by a report from the Federal Reserve of New York that its index measuring regional manufacturing jumped to the highest level since May. That was far more than economists were expecting. A similar report from the Philadelphia branch of the Fed also increased more than analysts anticipated.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 percent to 11,868.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.3 percent to 1,215.76. The Nasdaq rose marginally to 2,541.01.
Benchmark oil for January delivery was up 12 cents to $93.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.08 to finish at $93.87 per barrel on Nymex on Thursday.
In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3009 from $1.3011 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 77.94 yen from 77.91 yen.