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Global recovery hopes shore up markets

LONDON - Japanese shares led markets higher on Wednesday as investor sentiment recovered amid hopes for the global economy.

The turnaround began on Tuesday after the U.S. posted another month of retail sales growth, a 0.2 percent monthly rise in December. The rise, while modest, helped assuage some concerns about the strength and durability of the U.S. economic recovery following weak jobs data.

Meanwhile, the World Bank sounded a note of optimism by indicating that the global economy has turned a corner after five years of financial crises and recession.

"Equity markets welcomed the international financial organization's outlook for 2014, in which it raised its global growth forecasts for the year," said David Madden, market analyst at IG.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.3 percent at 6,788 while Germany's DAX rose 0.9 percent to 9,629. The CAC-40 in France was 0.5 percent higher at 4,295.

Wall Street was poised for a solid opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent. How U.S. stocks open could hinge on the next batch of corporate earnings, including from Bank of America.

The gains in Europe and anticipated advance at Wall Street's open were dwarfed by the 2.5 percent rise in Japan's Nikkei 225 to 15,808.73. That helped the index recover much of its 3.1 percent loss on Tuesday.

A softer yen helped, particularly the share prices of exporters such as Toyota and Sony -- a lower currency potentially helps them in international markets.

The dollar, which has been on the retreat for much of the period since last Friday's weak U.S. nonfarm payrolls data, was up 0.2 percent at 104.33 yen, while the euro fell 0.3 percent to $1.3626.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent to 22,902 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 1,953.28. The Shanghai Composite Index, however, lost 0.2 percent to 2,023.35 as investors anticipated an influx of new listings.

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