U.S., China stimulus hopes boost global markets

The Federal Reserve building is seen Jan. 22, 2008, in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(AP) LONDON - World financial markets rose Thursday on hopes that more help for the global economy is on the way, after minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve showed policy makers favor further stimulus and poor manufacturing data out of China fueled speculation Beijing will take more action to boost its economy.

In Europe, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras continued his campaign to convince the continent's leaders to give him more time to turn around the debt-strapped economy.

In early trading, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent to 5,799.95 while Germany's DAX gained 0.3 percent to 7,037.63. France's CAC 40 added 0.3 percent to 3,472.75.

Asian indexes closed higher and Wall Street was poised to rise as well. Dow futures were up 0.1 percent to 13,172 while the broader S&P 500 futures rose 0.2 percent to 1,415.70.

Investors were cheered by the release of minutes from the last major meeting of the Fed, which showed members of its Open Market Committee favoring additional action to help the U.S. economy if it does not recover substantially in coming months.

In China, a preliminary reading of manufacturing activity indicated that government stimulus efforts have not been able to neutralize global headwinds. HSBC's manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to a nine-month low of 47.8 in July, as weak global demand hit Chinese export orders. New export orders fell at their fastest rate in three years.

The timing of a Chinese stimulus is not clear. Andrew Sullivan, principal sales trader at Piper Jaffray in Hong Kong, said that policymakers are likely to wait until after the 18th Party Congress, scheduled for October, to take major action.

"Then the new leadership can be credited for creating a turnaround, thus cementing the people's support," he said. That would also give Chinese policymakers time to see what Europe and the U.S. do first, potentially leveraging their actions.

In Europe, economic indicators also came in weak. The PMI of overall economic activity in the 17-country eurozone was at 46.6 points in August, only a tiny improvement from the previous month's 46.5 and still very low - a number below 50 means the economy is contracting.

Analysts said the number shows the eurozone is firmly in recession, which will continue to hurt its efforts to reduce debt and boost investor confidence. But investors seemed to cling to the hope that the numbers are bottoming out, raising the prospect of a mild recovery later this year.

Any improvement, however, is likely to depend on governments and central banks doing more to reform their economies and boost demand.

The European Central Bank is expected to present in coming weeks a plan to help indebted countries like Spain and Italy by buying their government bonds. It must first overcome resistance by Germany's central bank, however.

Solving Greece's financial problems will also be crucial. Samaras will travel to Berlin on Friday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and to France on Saturday for talks with President Francois Hollande. He is asking that Greece be given more time to meet its deficit targets and implement its reforms as its economy is struggling through a fifth year of recession.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index led gains with a 1.2 percent rise, to 20,132.24, while mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.3, to 2,113.07. South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 1,942.54. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 4383.70. Japan's Nikkei 225 index was up 0.5 percent, at 9,178.12.

In currencies, the prospect of the U.S. pumping more dollars into the economy pushed the greenback to its lowest level against the euro since early July. The euro rose to $1.2560 from $1.2530 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose against the Japanese yen, however, to 78.61 yen from 78.44 yen.

Benchmark oil for October delivery rose 77 cents to $98.03 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 42 cents to finish Wednesday at $97.26 per barrel.