World stocks rise on US employment data

AMSTERDAM (AP) — World stock markets were mostly higher Thursday after several pieces of data pointed toward a strengthening labor market in the US, and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi repeated his commitment to keeping interest rates low.

“Our monetary policy stance will remain accommodative for as long as necessary,” Draghi said after the ECB’s governing council kept its key lending rate for banks unchanged at 0.5 percent.

The euro sank as Draghi spoke, falling to $1.3125 from above $1.32 earlier in the day. By the end of trading in Europe on Thursday, it had slipped further to $1.3118. U.S. markets opened higher after the Labor Department said jobless claims declined in the last week of August and the ADP Research Institute said the private sector added 176,000 jobs in August.

“Companies of all sizes expanded their payrolls over the previous month,” said ADP president Carlos Rodriguez.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index gained 0.1 percent to 14,940.47, and the broader S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent to 1,655.76.

Rising borrowing costs in Europe were one cause of market volatility, as investors gain confidence that the European economy is recovering from its long slump. German 10-year bond yields passed 2 percent briefly for the first time since March 2012.

But “Draghi remarked that he couldn’t share this enthusiasm about the recovery,” said ING economist Carsten Brzeski. “According to him, the shoots were ‘very very green’” and “risks to the economic outlook were still on the downside.”

Germany’s DAX ended the day up 0.5 percent to 8,234.98 and France’s CAC-40 up 0.7 percent at 4,006.80. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.9 percent to 6,532.44.

Meanwhile, most Asian stocks benefited from Wednesday’s strong close in the U.S.: a Federal Reserve survey showed moderate economic growth in the summer months and automakers put out their best sales data in six years.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index swung between losses and gains before closing 0.1 percent higher at 14,064.82 after the Bank of Japan said that the world’s No. 3 economy was “recovering moderately.” The central bank’s policy board also said the bank’s monetary easing policies would be maintained for the time being.

India’s Sensex benchmark surged 1.7 percent a day after the country’s new central bank head, Raghuram Rajan, announced a series of measures aimed at shoring up the rupee currency and strengthening the banking system.

Among new measures Rajan promised was one to allow existing banks to open new domestic branches without Reserve Bank of India permission. Rajan also said long-awaited new banking licenses would be issued by January.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.2 percent to 22,597.97. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 1 percent to 1,951.65. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed. The Philippines and Indonesia fell. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.4 percent to close at 5,142.50.

Investors were also looking ahead to Friday, when the official U.S. jobs report for August will be released. Economists are expecting numbers almost exactly in line with the ADP estimates, according to financial data provider FactSet.

Friday’s jobs report is the last major piece of economic data the Federal Reserve will get to see before it decides whether or not to pull back on its massive bond-buying program. That program has kept interest rates abnormally low and supported stock markets. While most investors believe the Fed will begin to pull back, the question has become when and how much.

“The economy seems to be recovering. I think the crucial thing will be the jobs numbers on Friday,” said Andrew Sullivan, trader at Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 98 cents at $108.21 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It has been supported in recent weeks by concerns over a possible U.S. military strike against Syria, which could further destabilize the wider region, a big producer of crude.

In currencies, the dollar broke through 100 yen, rising to 100.00 yen from 99.76 yen.

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Pamela Sampson contributed to this story from Bangkok.

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