BANGKOK (AP) — World stock markets were boosted Friday by encouraging indicators from Japan and further proof that the U.S. economy is on the upswing.
Reports showing improved consumer spending, a jump in pending home sales and a drop in jobless claims emboldened investors to dive into riskier assets such as stocks. Wall Street posted its third-straight gain of the week.
Japan got a dose of upbeat economic news when the government said industrial production rose 2 percent in May from April, the fourth straight monthly increase, while the most-watched consumer price index stopped falling for the first time in seven months. Japan's Nikkei 225 index surged 3.5 percent to 13,677.32.
In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 6,249.19. Germany's DAX was nearly unchanged at 7,987.27. France's CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent to 3,752.23. Wall Street was poised for gains. Dow Jones industrial futures gained 0.3 percent to 14,977 while S&P 500 futures advanced 0.3 percent to 1,611.70.
Investors were also encouraged by comments from key U.S. Federal Reserve officials. The president of the New York branch of the Fed said the central bank would likely keep buying bonds if the economy failed to grow at the pace expected. Jerome Powell, a member of the Fed's board in Washington, said investors appear to have incorrectly concluded that the Fed will taper its purchases soon.
That brought a sign of relief to markets fearing that a pullback by the Fed would deflate stock and commodity markets, where investors have turned due to the low interest rates created by the bond buying program.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 1.8 percent to 20,803.29 while mainland Chinese shares also rose as fears eased of a credit crunch in China, analysts said. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.5 percent to 1,979.21, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index edged up less than 0.1 percent to 887.68.
The central bank had allowed rates that banks pay to borrow from each other to soar last week, part of an attempt by Beijing to clamp down on massive credit in the informal lending industry. Later, however, when Chinese policymakers softened their stance with the promise to provide "liquidity support" if needed.
The central bank's action was "good for the future because it makes merchant banks turn more market-driven and do more prudent lending," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.
Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi added 1.6 percent to 1,863.32. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent to 4,802.60
Among individual stocks, Japan's Sharp Corp. soared 8.1 percent after announcing it will set up a joint venture with in China with liquid crystal display panel maker Nanjing China Electronics Panda Group Corp., Kyodo News reported. Panasonic gained 7.6 percent. Nintendo added 6.7 percent.
New York stocks got a substantial boost Thursday by the National Association of Realtors, which reported that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales rose 6.7 percent last month. That's the highest level since December 2006. Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.3 percent last month, nearly erasing a similar decline in April. Income rose 0.5 percent.
Benchmark oil for August delivery was up 62 cents to $97.67 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.55 a barrel to close at $97.05 on the Nymex on Thursday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3051 from $1.3049 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 98.89 yen from 98.36 yen.