World shares hit eight-month high on strong Chinese export figures
WORLD stock prices rose to an eight-month high on Thursday and oil prices climbed as news of stronger-than-expected Chinese exports raised hopes of a more robust recovery for the global economy this year.
The euro rose after the European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged and ECB President Mario Draghi offered no hints that more policy easing will be coming soon.
The ECB's policy restraint spurred selling in safe-haven German government debt and stoked bids for gold.
"The market's more positive and it owes a lot of that to the Chinese economic data," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York, adding that the success of a Spanish bond auction also helped.
Spain's first debt sale of 2013 raised more money than expected at a lower borrowing cost than in a previous auction, sending benchmark Spanish bond yields to 10-month lows.
The combination of an improved global economic outlook and reduced worries about Spain's ability to finance its deficit fed bids for world shares for a second day.
MSCI's broad world equity index was 0.6pc higher at 349.03, its highest level since May.
Wall Street stocks opened higher. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 46.94 points, or 0.35pc, at 13,437.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 6.32 points, or 0.43pc, at 1,467.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.55 points, or 0.28pc, at 3,114.36. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index edged up 0.03pc at 1,168.30 points.
China surprised most observers by reporting its exports rebounded sharply in December to a seven-month high, with imports growing at double the expected rate. However, the data showed demand for Chinese goods in the United States and Europe remained subdued.
A broad measure of Chinese credit growth was also found to have risen strongly, making it likely that the economy will be shown to have expanded by around 7.8pc in 2012 when fourth quarter GDP data come out next week.
China's GDP growth touched a 3-1/2-year low of 7.4pc between July and September last year.
The strength of imports revealed in the data stoked hopes of greater demand for commodities, lifting copper and oil prices.
"Risk is back on after the China data," said Carsten Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "General market sentiment is much more positive, with hopes of better growth pushing up most markets."
News of a big 700,000 barrels-per-day cut in oil production over the last two months of last year by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, added to gains in Brent crude prices, which hit a 12-week high of $113.29 a barrel.
U.S. crude futures rose 1 percent to $94.05 a barrel, while London copper was up 0.8pc at $8,145 a tonne.
In the currency market, the euro gained an extra boost after Spain's debt auction raised €5.8bn.
Most of the demand was for a bond maturing in 2015 that would be covered by an ECB bond-buying program if Spain were to apply for international aid, though the success of the auction has probably delayed the timing of any request.
The euro rose 1.2pc at $1.3212, while yields on 10-year Spanish bonds fell below 5pc to reach a 10-month low of 4.908pc.
Meanwhile, the yield on German 10-year government debt rose to 1.562pc, its highest level since late October.