Oil, U.S. data boost global stocks

SEOUL, South Korea - Global stocks mostly posted strong gains on Thursday as a rebound in the price of oil and solid U.S. manufacturing data boosted investor sentiment.

In early European trading, Germany's DAX was up 0.3 percent to 9,402.55. France's CAC 40 traded 0.2 percent higher at 4,240.42. But Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.6 percent to 5,995.82.

Futures pointed to a higher open for U.S. stocks: Both Dow and S&P futures were up 0.3 percent.

Iran's oil minister said the country supports "any measure" to boost oil prices and voiced its support for a plan to stabilize and boost prices laid out earlier this week by four influential oil producers. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela reached the agreement in Doha to cap their crude output if others do the same. Markets have been rattled the months-long slump in oil prices, which has hammered the share prices of energy companies and spilled over into worries about losses for banks.

"Initial disappointment on the tentative 'freeze' agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia was reversed after Iran voiced support for the agreement, raising hopes of further steps between major oil producers to stabilize the market," said Mizuho Bank in a daily commentary.

Asian stock markets started with a broad rally but gains narrowed. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 2.3 percent to 16,196.80 and South Korea's Kospi rose 1.3 percent to 1,908.84. Hong Kong's Hang Seng surged 2.3 percent to 19,363.08. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 2.3 percent to 4,992.00. Stocks in mainland China finished slightly lower while markets in Taiwan and Southeast Asian were higher.

The Federal Reserve said U.S. factories cranked out more autos, furniture and food last month, boosting production by the most since July. Manufacturing output rose 0.5 percent in January, after falling in four of the previous five months. Overall industrial production, which includes mining and utilities, added 0.9 percent, the biggest jump in 14 months.

Benchmark U.S. oil added 69 cents to $31.35 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract jumped $1.62, or 5.6 percent, to close at $30.66 a barrel. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 41 cents to $34.91 in London after jumping 7.2 percent the previous day.

The dollar slipped to 113.86 yen from 114.14 yen. The euro rose to $1.1138 from $1.1124.