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Stocks extend gains after strong US economic data in run-up to US monthly payroll figures
LONDON (AP) ' Global stock markets were buoyant Tuesday after a run of solid economic news, notably out of the U.S., helped keep concerns over the European debt crisis at bay.
The euro also bounced back, trading 0.7 percent higher at $1.3041. Last week, it hit a 15-month dollar low of $1.2857 on worries that the European debt crisis will escalate this year and envelop Italy, the third-largest economy in the 17-nation eurozone.
Europe's debt woes will likely remain the main catalyst to markets over the coming days and weeks, but without any fresh bad news, trading in 2012 has got off to a solid start. Surveys showing that growth in China and India may be picking up momentum has helped shore up the underlying mood.
A strong U.S. manufacturing survey also helped sustain the buying mood on Wall Street's first trading day of the year. The Institute for Supply Management said its main index of activity rose to 53.9 in December from the previous month's 52.7, while the employment subinex spiked sharply higher to 55.1 from 51.8. Anything above 50 indicates expansion and augers well for this Friday's closely watched U.S. non-farm payroll figures for December.
The payroll figures often set the market tone for a week or two and investors will be keen to see if the recent improvement in the U.S. economic news is evident. The consensus in the markets is that the U.S. economy generated another 150,000 or so jobs during the month ' a solid, if unspectacular, jobs creation in the world's largest economy.
"The trend for the U.S. economy is most decidedly to the upside," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG in New York.
Mounting optimism over the U.S. economy, swelled as well by forecast-busting construction data, helped many of the world's leading indexes to start 2012 off well after a year to forget.
In Europe, Germany's DAX was up 1.6 percent at 6,174 while the CAC-40 in France brushed off earlier losses to trade 0.3 percent higher at 3,233. Britain's FTSE 100 index of leading British shares, which was closed Monday, was trading 1.9 percent higher at 5,678.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 2.1 percent at 12,473 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose by the equivalent rate at 1,284.
Europe's ongoing battle to contain a debt crisis that's threatening the future of the euro currency is likely to return to the forefront of investors' attention. Both France and Germany will be tapping bond markets this week for fairly large amounts of money, testing market confidence. Next Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be holding their first meeting of the new year.
Progress on Greece's talks with private creditors about taking a bigger loss on their Greek bonds will also be closely monitored. As part of the country's second massive financial bailout, private creditors have been asked to forgive 50 percent of their Greek holdings, but many in the markets think that's not enough. There's speculation the so-called Greek haircut may have to rise, possibly up to 75 percent.
Greece warned Tuesday that it would have to ditch the euro if it fails to finalize the second, euro130 billion ($169 billion) international bailout. Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said negotiations over the next three or four months with international debt monitors will "determine everything," including whether Greece escapes a disastrous bankruptcy.
Earlier, Asian stocks rose, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, on its first trading session of 2012, jumped 2.4 percent to close at 18,877.41. South Korea's Kospi index rose 2.7 percent to 1,875.41 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 gained 1.1 percent at 4,101.20. Benchmarks in Japan and mainland China remained closed for the extended New Year's holiday.
Oil prices tracked equities sharply higher ' benchmark crude for February delivery spiked $3.43 to $102.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.