- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

LONDON (AP) - World stock markets railled again Friday as confidence remained buoyed by positive U.S. economic data, hopes of further stimulus measures from Japan and China and an upbeat comments from Bank of America’s CEO.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 87.32 points, or 2.4 percent, at 3,799.38, while Germany’s DAX rose 71.33 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,027.55. France’s CAC-40 was up 63.82 points, or 2.4 percent, to 2,758.07.

The rally is expected to continue into the U.S. session, though there is some economic data, notably on U.S. consumer confidence, that could spark an end-of-week bout of selling. Dow futures were up 59 points, or 0.8 percent, at 7,175 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 futures rose 6.8 points, or 0.9 percent, to 755.20.

“The U.S. also looks as if it is going to have a fourth day of consecutive gains, unless of course there is a ‘sting in the tail’ later on this afternoon,” said David Buik, senior strategist at BGC Partners.

Markets have responded positively to a raft of fairly good news this week, not least Thursday’s U.S. retail sales data, which were not as bad as feared and positive comments from Bank of America Corp. chief executive Ken Lewis, which came in the wake of a similarly upbeat assessment from Citigroup Inc’s boss Vikram Pandit.

Earlier comments from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso _ that their governments stood ready to roll out even more measures if needed to reinvigorate growth _ sustained the rally into the Asia session.

“In a world where we have all learned to fear and forecast the worst, a glimmer of good news is all it takes to change the mood,” said Kit Juckes, head of credit research and market strategy at Royal Bank of Scotland.

The mood has been notably different this week than at any time since the financial crisis became most acute last October, with the Dow Jones industrial average up around 10 percent and the FTSE 100 index over 7 percent higher.

However, investors are wary of calling the end to the bear market and remain on guard for any news that may knock the stuffing out of the buyers. A failure by the G-20 finance ministers and central bankers to provide a united front at this weekend’s meeting in southern England could be one catalyst for a renewed bout of selling pressure.

Europe _ excluding Britain _ and the U.S. appear to be at loggerheads about the best way to get the global economy back on track and specifically about the merits of another big fiscal boost.

While U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner appears to be focusing on the need for more fiscal stimulus in the form of government spending, most of Europe’s leaders think the top topic of conversation ahead of the April 2 meeting of G-20 leaders should be big reforms to the international financial regulatory system and specifically the role of the International Monetary Fund.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average jumped 371.03 points, or 5.2 percent, to 7,569.28, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 524.27 points, or 4.4 percent, to 12,525.80.

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore’s stock measure vaulted 5.6 percent. Stock measures in Australia, Taiwan and India all added 3 percent or more. South Korea also fell marginally.

Overnight in New York, the Dow rose 239.66, or 3.5 percent, to 7,170.06. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 29.38, or 4.1 percent, to 750.74. The Nasdaq composite index gained 54.46, or 4 percent, to 1,426.10.

Oil prices, which surged overnight, slipped below $47 a barrel as investors jockeyed over whether OPEC will announce a production cut at its meeting on Sunday, and how big the cut might be.

Benchmark crude for April delivery rose 27 cents to $47.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil prices vaulted $4.70 on Thursday to settle at $47.03.

In currencies, the dollar rallied 0.6 percent to 98.13 yen while the euro fell 0.3 percent to $1.2877.

___

AP Business Writer Jeremiah Marquez in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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