* China exports rise to 7-month highs, lifts optimism
* S&P index posts highest close in five years
* Euro jumps after ECB holds rates, strong Spanish debt sale
* ECB's Draghi, Fed's Bullard offer encouraging growth views
* Oil rises on China demand, Saudi output cuts
By Richard Leong
NEW YORK, Jan 10 World stock prices rose to an
eight-month high on Thursday and oil prices climbed as
unexpectedly strong data on Chinese exports raised hopes of a
faster recovery for the global economy.
An encouraging view on the U.S. economy from a top Federal
Reserve official helped catapult the Standard & Poor's 500 index
to its highest closing level in five years.
The euro rose on less anxiety about the euro zone economy
after the European Central Bank unanimously left interest rates
unchanged and ECB President Mario Draghi offered no hints that
more policy easing will be coming soon.
While the euro zone has been treading water due to a
festering debt crisis and a sluggish global economy, Draghi said
at a news conference after the ECB rate meeting that "later in
2013, economic activity should gradually recover."
The ECB's policy restraint spurred selling in safe-haven
German government debt and stoked bids for gold.
"The global market is expected to be in better shape in 2013
than back in the summer of 2012," said Stephen Wood, chief
market strategist at Russell Investments in New York. "There are
a few more positives than negatives the market is pricing in."
The U.S. economy, while far from robust, seemed to be
gaining traction, especially in the housing sector. St. Louis
Federal Reserve President James Bullard said he expected U.S.
gross domestic product growth at 3.2 percent in 2013, more than
1 percentage point faster than the median forecast among
economists polled by Reuters.
Another factor supporting the market was Spain's first debt
sale of 2013, which raised more money than expected at a lower
borrowing cost than in a previous auction. That sent benchmark
Spanish bond yields to 10-month lows.
The combination of an improved global economic outlook and
reduced worries about Spain's ability to finance its deficit
supported bids for world shares for a second day. But lingering
worries about poor corporate earnings and the debt ceiling fight
in Washington left traders reticent to push stock prices much
higher, analysts said.
MSCI's broad world equity index was 0.8
percent higher at 349.74, slightly below the highest level since
May it touched earlier.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average
closed up 80.71 points, or 0.60 percent, at 13,471.22. The S&P
500 finished 11.10 points, or 0.76 percent, higher at
1,472.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index ended up 15.95
points, or 0.51 percent, at 3,121.76.
U.S.-traded shares of Nokia jumped 18.7 percent to
$4.45 after the Finnish mobile phone maker said its
fourth-quarter results were better than expected.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index flirted
with a near two-year high before turning lower in late European
trading on comments from Swatch CEO Nick Hayek, who
said he expected slower growth in Swiss watch exports in 2013.
The index closed down 0.29 percent at 1,164.65 after touching
CHINA DATA RAISES HOPES
China surprised most observers by reporting its exports
rebounded sharply in December to a seven-month high, with
imports growing at double the expected rate. However, the data
showed demand for Chinese goods in the United States and Europe
A broad measure of Chinese credit growth also rose strongly,
making it likely that the economy expanded by around 7.8 percent
in 2012. Fourth-quarter GDP data come out next week.
China's GDP growth touched a 3-1/2-year low of 7.4 percent
between July and September last year.
The strength of imports revealed in the data stoked hopes of
greater demand for commodities, lifting copper and oil prices.
"Risk is back on after the China data," said Carsten
Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
"General market sentiment is much more positive, with hopes of
better growth pushing up most markets."
News of a big 700,000 barrels-per-day cut in oil production
over the last two months of last year by Saudi Arabia, the
world's largest oil exporter, added to gains in oil prices.
Brent crude prices climbed to a 12-week high of $113.29 a
barrel before settling up 13 cents, or 0.12 percent, at
U.S. crude futures settled 72 cents, or 0.77 percent,
higher at $93.82 a barrel, while London copper was 0.56
percent higher at $8,125 a tonne.
In the currency market, the euro gained an extra boost after
Spain's debt auction raised 5.8 billion euros.
Most of the demand was for a bond maturing in 2015 that
would be covered by an ECB bond-buying program if Spain were to
apply for international aid, though the success of the auction
probably delayed the timing of any request.
The euro rose 1.5 percent at $1.3254, while yields on
10-year Spanish bonds fell to a 10-month low of 4.90 percent
The single currency strengthened to an 18-month high against
the yen at 117.58 yen.
The yield on German 10-year government debt
edged up slightly on the day at 1.572 percent, hovering at its
highest level since late October. Benchmark 10-year Treasury
notes were last down 11/32 in price to yield 1.899
percent, up from 1.86 percent late on Wednesday.