BEIJING - Major stock markets edged up on Monday amid greater optimism about the global economy, but trading volumes were low in European trading as U.K. markets are closed for a bank holiday and U.S. markets are closed in observance of Memorial Day.
Germany's DAX gained 0.3 percent to 10,315 while France's CAC-40 was 0.1 percent higher at 4,518.
Earlier, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 1.4 percent to 17,068.02 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 20,629.39. India's Sensex advanced 0.3 percent to 26,724.49 and the Shanghai Composite Index held steady at 2,822.45. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 also was unchanged at 5,408.00 while Seoul's Kospi shed 0.1 percent to 1,967.13.
Sentiment remained buoyed by gains last week, when U.S. stocks recorded their strongest week in almost three months. Banks gained after Janet Yellen said the U.S. Federal Reserve intends to keep raising interest rates provided the economy improves. Banks stand to make bigger profits on lending if interest rates rise, and Yellen's comments were taken as a vote of confidence in the global economy.
"Janet Yellen's remarks on Friday confirm that at least one increase in the Fed rate is likely this year. Traders will take confidence from the fact that stock markets are firm in the face of this confirmation. As far as the markets are concerned, the timing of the next Fed increase now becomes the central issue," Ric Spooner of CMC Markets said in a report.
A rise in economic confidence in the 19-country eurozone also helped buoy markets in Europe. The Economic Sentiment Indicator, a monthly survey by the European Union's executive Commission, rose to a four-month high of 104.7 points in May from 104.0 in April. It was supported by optimism among consumers, industry managers, expectations for stronger hiring as well as rising retail prices.
In Asia, China's yuan weakened after the central bank set the starting point for the day's trading at its lowest level against the dollar in five years. The People's Bank of China failed to factor a possible U.S. rate hike into its plans and had to change its stance following Yellen's speech, according to Stephen Innes, a trader for OANDA. "I don't think the bank is trying to drive down the yuan," said Innes.
Investors were looking ahead to China's May manufacturing index due Wednesday as well as OPEC's meeting Thursday. The oil cartel is not expected to change its output levels as oil prices have recovered in recent weeks, but its views on the market will be scrutinized by investors. The European Central Bank will also hold a meeting on Thursday, and is likewise expected to take no action as it waits for past stimulus measures to have an effect on the economy.
Benchmark U.S. crude shed 9 cents to $49.24 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed 15 cents on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 19 cents to $49.76 per barrel in London. The contract fell 22 cents the previous session.
The dollar gained to 111.09 yen from Friday's 110.23. The euro edged up to $1.1141 from $1.1116.