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European stocks rebound as euro finance ministers discuss raising bailout resources
LONDON (AP) ' European markets recovered some ground Friday, after sharp losses this week, as finance ministers from the 17 euro countries discussed whether to increase the amount of resources at their disposal for future bailouts.
Though the target of '1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) requested by a number of international institutions, as well as the U.S. and China, is unlikely to be met, it appeared the ministers would agree to increase the firewall to around '800 billion.
Some '300 billion ($398 billion) of that has already been spent in the bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, meaning '500 million would be left to fund new rescue packages.
Germany, the eurozone's largest economy and the biggest contributor to the bailout funds, has signaled it would agree to such a proposal.
"The hope is that Germany will soften its stance and allow the various bailout funds to be enlarged, providing more firepower to combat the crisis," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG Index.
Many in the markets see increasing the firewall as a sure step in dampening down the debt crisis, which has crippled the eurozone for the past couple of years. The fear is that the euro bloc just won't have enough resources to help out Spain and Italy, should they need outside help.
Worries that Spain will be dragged into the debt crisis mire has weighed on markets this week. The new Spanish government is expected to unveil a tough budget later as it attempts to get the deficit down to levels sanctioned by its partners.
Even if a deal to increase the bailout resources is approved at the euro meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, there are many doubts over whether Italy or Spain, the eurozone's third and fourth largest economies could be saved if the markets lose confidence.
"The reality is that the firewall is likely to be both underwhelming and insufficient to deal with potential problems in Spain and Italy," said Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.
For now, European stocks have recovered some of their losses this week. Germany's DAX was up 0.8 percent at 6,931 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.9 percent to 3,413. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.5 percent to 5,769.
Wall Street was poised for a solid opening too, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.3 percent.
The euro was also 0.3 percent higher at $1.337, supported by figures showing inflation in the eurozone in March only fell to 2.6 percent from the previous month's 2.7 percent. The market consensus had been for a fall to 2.5 percent.
Earlier in Asia, sentiment in stock markets was hurt by news that Japan's factory production fell a worse-than-expected 1.2 percent in February ' its first decline in three months ' as demand for exports weakened. The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo fell 0.3 percent to close at 10,083.56.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent to 20,555.58, while mainland Chinese shares were mixed. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5 percent to 2,262.79 while the Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 891.84.
Oil prices bounced back alongside equities ' benchmark oil for May delivery was up 32 cents to $103.12 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract plunged $2.63 to $102.78 after French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said there's a "good chance" that the U.S. and Europe will agree to release some of their oil reserves.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.