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World stocks up amid further upbeat economic signs

LONDON – World stocks rose strongly on Monday, with some Asian markets up more than 5 percent amid upbeat economic news from China and the U.S.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 83.87 points, or 1.8 percent, at 4,853.32, while France’s CAC-40 rose 38.18 points, or 1.2 percent, to 3,198.03. Trading was somewhat subdued as investors returned from a long weekend and Britain’s markets were closed for a public holiday.

Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong led the region’s advance with the benchmark Hang Seng index closing up 860.06 points, or 5.5 percent, to 16,381.05.

The latest gains came after a survey Friday into Chinese manufacturing indicated that sentiment had risen for the second month in a row. In addition, the equivalent survey in the U.S. showed that manufacturing activity posted its best showing since September, fueling hopes that the world’s largest economy may have seen off the worst of the recession.

Mounting hopes that the global economy may start to recover later this year have been the main catalyst behind the strong stock market gains witnessed in April — U.S. stocks enjoyed their best one-month performance in nine years in April. Stock markets usually rally around six to nine months before real evidence of an economic recovery.

David Buik, markets analyst at BGC Partners, said April was a “magical” month for equities, despite the threat of an outbreak of global swine flu.

“A year ago that would have been enough to see global stock markets drop by 10 percent; today investors are much more sanguine about absorbing bad news,” he said.

“It is unlikely that anything could be as devastating as the credit and banking crisis of the last two years,” he said.

Nevertheless, investors remained wary of calling the start to a bull market.

“We remain skeptical, especially as recovery from this crisis is likely to be far slower and more tepid than markets are pricing in,” said Mitul Kotecha, an analyst at Calyon Credit Agricole.

Investors in Asia were also encouraged by a report forecasting that the Chinese economy will expand 7 percent in the second quarter, up from 6.1 percent in the previous quarter.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose 3.3 percent to 2,559.91, while South Korea’s Kospi index climbed 2.1 percent to 1,397.92, its highest close this year.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 5.6 percent, and Taiwanese shares surged on hopes for improved business ties with China. The benchmark index surged 5.6 percent to 6,330.40, building on strong gains last week, when the island’s government decided to allow mainland institutional investors to invest in the Taiwan stock market.

Australia’s benchmark rose 3 percent as resources stocks gained on the back of higher commodities prices. Global mining giant BHP Billiton rose 2.5 percent, while rival Rio Tinto surged 4.9 percent.

Japan’s financial markets will be closed Monday through Wednesday for the “Golden Week” holidays.

The gains were expected to continue when Wall Street opens for business later. Dow futures were up 49 points, or 0.6 percent, to 8,230, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 futures rose 5.50 points, or 0.6 percent, to 881.60.

Oil prices fell modestly with benchmark crude for June delivery down 9 cents at $53.11 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 99.38 yen from 99.10 yen late Friday in New York. The euro was steady at $1.3265.

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