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World stocks mixed ahead of key meetings in Greece
World stocks mixed, as Europe debt woes temper optimism over US economy
By The Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) ' World stock markets were mixed Wednesday, as encouraging signs about the U.S. economy were tempered by investors' fears that time was running out for Greece to fix its debt crisis.

Oil prices hovered below $103 per barrel. The dollar rose against the euro but fell against the yen.

European shares fell in early trade. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.2 percent to 5,689.47. Germany's DAX lost 0.6 percent to 6,128.62. France's CAC-40 lost 0.9 percent to 3,217.26. Wall Street was headed for a lower opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures down 0.6 percent at 12,217.56 and S&P 500 futures slipping marginally to 1,271.10.

Greece's prime minister was scheduled to hold talks later in the day with labor unions and trade federations. The meetings come a day after the government warned that Greece could have to leave the euro if the country fails to reach an agreement over an euro130 billion ($169 billion) emergency bailout being offered by international lenders, and that more austerity measures may be needed.

Asian stocks ended the day with gains, following a strong session on Wall Street. Japan's Nikkei 225 showed renewed life as it posted a 1.2 percent gain to 8,560.11. The battered benchmark lost nearly 20 percent of its value in 2011 ' a year marred by a tsunami and nuclear plant disaster, made all the more difficult by record-high levels for the yen.

Japanese exporters rose amid signs the U.S. economy is on the mend ' good news for companies that depend on sales to the world's No. 1 economy. Toyota Motor Corp. jumped 3.1 percent, Honda soared 4.1 percent and Yamaha added 3.4 percent. Nikon Corp. gained 2.2 percent and Fujitsu Ltd. gained 3.5 percent.

Elsewhere, Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose 2.1 percent to 4,187.80. Markets in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines also rose.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index and South Korea's Kospi slipped after strong gains a day earlier. The Hang Seng fell 0.8 percent to 18,727.31, while the Kospi was down 0.5 percent at 1,866.22.

Wall Street opened the year with a bang following the release of positive U.S. economic data.

The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for December rose to 53.9 from November's 52.7, with readings above 50 indicating expansion. Factories hired more workers in December, saw the most growth in new orders since April and ramped up production.

Other data showed the struggling construction industry on firmer footing, with U.S. builders spending more in November on single-family homes, apartments and remodeling projects.

The strong reports correspond with other positive signs for the economy, including rising consumer confidence and a drop in unemployment benefit applications.

"The U.S. continues to grow fairly earnestly in spite of turmoil in Europe. Yesterday's (manufacturing) report was especially encouraging," analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a research note.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.5 percent to 12,397.38, its highest close in more than five months. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 1.5 percent at 1,277.06. The Nasdaq closed up 1.7 percent at 2,648.72.

A jump in commodity prices, which often follow stock prices, helped metals and mining shares. In Australia, OZ Minerals Ltd. gained 4.1 percent and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. jumped 4.8 percent. Uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd. gained 3.6 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest mining company, soared 4.1 percent.

Benchmark crude for February delivery fell 16 cents to $102.80 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $4.13 to finish at $102.96 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currency trading, the euro fell to $1.3037 from $1.3056 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar was lower at 76.65 yen from 76.67 yen.


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