World markets mostly rise ahead of ECB decision

MANILA, Philippines - Global stocks were mostly higher Thursday following a surprise rate cut by New Zealand's central bank. Investors also took heart from higher oil prices and expectations that the European Central Bank will lower interest rates and increase the amount of securities it buys from the market each month.

At around 7:30 a.m. Eastern, European stocks were trading mostly higher. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 6,146. France's CAC 40 was up 0.8 percent at 4,460. Germany's DAX was up 0.9 percent to 9,813. U.S. futures augured positive trading on Wall Street, with the Dow futures up 0.3 percent and S&P futures 0.4 percent higher.

"Expectations in the equity markets are clearly buoyant ahead of the ECB meeting this evening, although the sharp sell-off seen in the wake of the ECB's December meeting is still very fresh in the minds of many investors," IG market analyst Angus Nicholson said in a commentary.

New Zealand's central bank lowered its benchmark interest rate to a record low 2.25 percent Thursday, saying the rate could go lower yet as the country grapples with weak international growth and lower prices for its crucial dairy exports.

That pushed New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 INDEX up 0.8 percent to 6,505.28. But some Asian markets fell back after an early burst of buying following the news.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 1.3 percent higher to 16,852. Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower to 5,150, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.1 percent to 19,984 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.8 percent to 1,969. China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 2 percent to 2,805. Southeast Asianmarkets were mixed.

U.S. crude shed 11 cents a barrel to $38.18 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped 4.9 percent, or $1.79, Wednesday to $38.29. Brent crude, which is used to price international oil, lost 20 cents to $40.87 a barrel.

The euro slipped to $1.0965 from $1.0986. The dollar rose to 113.41 yen from 113.19 yen.