World stocks rise on heels of new Dow record high

World stock markets rise after Dow hits yet another record high as US earnings season begins

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- World stock markets mostly gained Wednesday on the heels of a record high on Wall Street as traders waited for the latest Federal Reserve meeting minutes for insight into the U.S. economy's prospects.

Japan's stock market continued to rise on a wave of enthusiasm for the Bank of Japan's aggressive new approach to shaking the world's third-largest economy out of its two decade slump. The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo rose 0.7 percent to close at 13,288.13 — its highest close in nearly five years.

European stocks rose in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.6 percent to 6,350.64. Germany's DAX added 0.9 percent to 7,706.63. France's CAC-40 advanced 0.9 percent to 3,703.87.

Wall Street appeared set for more gains, a day after the Dow Jones industrial average hit a new high. Dow futures rose 0.2 percent to 14,639. S&P 500 futures added 0.2 percent to 1,566.50.

Asian stocks finished mostly higher. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent to 22,034.56. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.7 percent to 1,933.48. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent to 4,968.

Investors are looking to the release later in the day of a transcript of last month's Federal Reserve policy meeting for insights into the Fed's latest views on the health of the U.S. economy.

"Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said this week that while the U.S. economy was significantly stronger than it was four years ago, it has yet to recover back to an acceptable state of health," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore.

Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed after China released trade data for March. The Shanghai Composite Index rose marginally to 2,226.13. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.5 percent to 921.86.

Some experts said the official figures didn't match up with information available in Hong Kong about goods going in and out of China. The export figure, in particular, raised skepticism.

The General Administration of Customs said export growth slowed to 10 percent from the previous two-month period's 23.6 percent. However, Francis Lun, chief economist of GE Oriental Financial Group in Hong Kong, said the actual figure was probably closer to 2 to 3 percent but was inflated by exporters seeking government rebates.

"Exports on the surface look good. But there are many people casting doubt on the accuracy of these figures," Lun said.

Japanese heavy industrial shares posted strong gains. Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. jumped 7.3 percent. Kobe Steel rose 6.8 percent. Cosmo Oil soared 11.1 percent.

Australian surf wear retailer Billabong International dived nearly 27 percent amid disappointment at its moves toward a $287 million takeover deal that is half of what was offered last December.

Apart from the Fed minutes, U.S. corporate earnings will draw attention later in the week. Banks Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase are among the blue chips scheduled to issue reports.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 13 cents to $94.09 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 84 cents to finish at $94.20 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro rose slightly to $1.3100 from $1.3099 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 99.41 yen from 99.28 yen.

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