Overseas stocks edge up after U.S. rally

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SEOUL, South Korea World stock markets moved cautiously higher Monday as investors continued to feel confident about stocks following last week's U.S. jobs report and Wall Street's rally.

Solid corporate earnings reports and expectations that the weaker yen will enhance the bottom line of Japanese exporters also lured investors to stocks. Investors were also awaiting the release later in the day of U.S. factory orders for December.

In early European trading, Britain's fell 0.2 percent to 6,335.65. Germany's DAX was marginally higher at 7,834.47. France's CAC-40 was flat at 3,772.96. Wall Street appeared headed for a slightly higher open with Dow Jones industrial futures gaining almost 0.1 percent at 13,937. S&P 500 futures were nearly unchanged at 1,506.80.

Japan's Nikkei 225 was 0.6 percent higher at 11,260.35. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 23,685.01. South Korea's Kospi edged down 0.2 percent to 1,953.21. Shares in mainland China were mixed and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.3 percent to 4,907.50.

Last week, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 14,000 on Friday for the first time in more than five years as investors became less risk-averse following solid economic indicators from the U.S. and Europe.

U.S. government revised upward how many people were hired in the last two years adding an upbeat note to earlier news that Europe saw a lower-than-expected unemployment rate in December.

These indicators help ease investor aversion for risky assets, assuring them that the U.S. economic recovery is not losing steam and that the slump in eurozone economic activity might be bottoming out.

Improved sentiment helped the Shanghai Composite Index rise 0.4 percent to close at 2,428.15.

"The mood is improving in Shanghai with the main index surpassing 2,400 as investors are less hesitant about betting on risks," said Yun hang-jin, a market analyst at Korea Investment Securities. "There are expectations that policies from China and other emerging markets will boost stock markets."

Investors in Asian markets are also keen on the lunar New Year holidays starting this weekend, which could boost retail sales and increase inflow of Chinese tourists to neighboring countries.

Among individual stocks, shares of Panasonic Corp. skyrocketed more than 17 percent. The company, which reported a 61.4 billion yen ($667 million) profit for the October-December period Friday, has gotten a boost from a favorable exchange rate.

South Korean exporters Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. saw their shares fall 0.3 percent and 1.8 percent respectively, as the stronger won threatens to erode their overseas revenues.

Benchmark oil for March delivery fell 50 cents to $97.28 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 28 cents to finish at $97.77 a barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3600 from $1.3662 in late trading Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 92.93 yen from 92.75 yen.