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World stocks up on US housing data, Cisco earnings

Global stocks gain as the US government reports a significant hike in building permits in July, the highest since the 2008 crisis

AP, Friday 17 Aug 2012
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Encouraging signs about the U.S. housing market and strong earnings from U.S. tech giant Cisco helped lift global stock markets Friday.

The US government reported that construction of single-family homes dipped last month, but building permits jumped to their highest level since August 2008, a hint of stronger construction in the coming months. Meanwhile, Cisco Systems, the world's largest maker of computer networking equipment, reported earnings that beat expectations.

European stocks rose in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.1 per cent to 5,840.24. Germany's DAX was 0.2 per cent higher at 7,011.73 and France's CAC-40 added 0.1 per cent to 3,484.80.

Wall Street appeared on its way to a slightly lower opening after a strong trading session Thursday. Dow Jones industrial futures were flat at 13,225 while S&P 500 futures slipped marginally to 1,412.50.

Stocks in Asia registered broad gains. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.8 per cent to close at 9,162.50 — its highest finish in more than three months. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.8 per cent to 20,116.07 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.9 per cent to 4,370.10.

"Asian markets are mainly up because of the better close on Wall Street. That provided a bit of confidence to risk appetite," said Lorraine Tan, director at Standard & Poor's equity research in Singapore.

"I think the main thing coming out of the macro side is that It looks like the U.S. economy is growing, albeit slowly," Tan said. "It is significant that it is not slowing further."

South Korea's Kospi fell by 0.6 per cent to 1,946.54. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1 per cent to 2,114.89. The Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.3 per cent to 876.93.

Taiwan's benchmark TAIEX fell 0.3 per cent, with the government lowering its 2012 economic growth forecast to 1.6 per cent amid weakening demand for the island's electronics exports.

Markets also retained a positive mood following remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Thursday that her country — Europe's biggest economy — is committed to doing everything it can to maintain the euro currency union.

The 17 countries that use the euro have been struggling for the past three years to cope with huge debts and recession. Spain and Italy, the two big trouble spots, are threatened with a financial collapse that could tear the 13-year-old currency union apart and rock the global economy.

Among individual stocks, struggling Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp. jumped 5.1 per cent. News reports quoted company officials as saying that Sharp was considering spinning off a plant that produces LCD panels for smartphones and selling off other operations in a major restructuring effort.

Hong Kong-listed China Mobile Ltd., the world's biggest phone carrier by number of subscribers, fell 3.7 per cent a day after it reported profits rose by just 1.5 per cent in the first half of the year.

Benchmark oil was down 38 cents to $95.22 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.27 to finish at $95.60 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2372 from $1.2362 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.47 yen from 79.25 yen.

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