HONG KONG - Australia's stock market and currency jumped Thursday after encouraging economic data while gains on other major world benchmarks were more modest as investors waited for key policy meetings in Europe and a major U.S. job report.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.2
percent to 5,129.20 and the Australian dollar rose to its highest in more than
three weeks after the government reported a surprise trade surplus in December.
Economists had been expecting a deficit.
Economists at Societe Generale wrote
in a report that the trade figures as well as "solid" growth in
December retail sales indicate strong economic growth in the final quarter of
2013 for Australia, which has been contending with a cooling mining boom.
In early European trading, Germany's
DAX climbed 0.6 percent to 9,167.85 while France's CAC 40 advanced 0.4 percent
to 4,133.09. The FTSE 100 index of leading British companies was up 0.3 percent
U.S. stocks were poised to edge
higher. Dow futures rose 0.1 percent to 15,389.00 while S&P 500 futures
added 0.2 percent to 1,747.40.
Benchmarks in Asia finished higher,
although Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed 0.2 percent lower at
14,155.12 after spending most of the day in positive territory.
South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.9
percent to 1,907.89 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.7 percent to
Markets in China remained closed until
Friday because of Lunar New Year holidays.
Asian stocks were stabilizing after
sharp declines earlier in the week.
Investors are holding tight ahead of
interest rate policy meetings by the European Central Bank and Bank of England
later Thursday and a U.S. report on non-farm payrolls for January on Friday.
"Range trading is likely to
dominate" before those events, said Mitul Kotecha, Asian head of global
markets research for Credit Agricole CIB.
While no change in policy is expected
from the bank meetings, the results of the U.S. job report will provide an
important clue to the state of the world's largest economy. That in turn will
guide policymakers at the U.S. Federal Reserve, who have been scaling back
stimulus that has helped fuel gains in world markets.
In currencies, the dollar dipped to
101.35 Japanese yen from 101.54 in late trading Wednesday. The euro slipped to
$1.3525 from $1.3540.
Benchmark U.S. oil for March delivery
was up 17 cents to $97.55 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The contract rose 19 cents to close at $97.38 Wednesday.