Global stocks mostly higher on low interest rate pledge; Tokyo falls on central bank report

Associated Press + More

By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer

TOKYO (AP) — Global stock markets were mostly higher Tuesday as the Fed's vow to keep interest rates low offset weak economic indicators from China and Japan.

European stocks were higher in early trading. Germany's DAX gained 0.4 percent to 9,597.86 and France's CAC-40 rose 0.6 percent to 4,417.27. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.4 percent to 6,624.37.

Wall Street was set to gain with S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent at 1,867.20. Dow futures rose 0.2 percent to 16,399. Stock markets in the U.S. rose the day before after Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen said U.S. interest rates would stay low for some time and that momentum continued Tuesday.

But the Nikkei 225, the main index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, closed down 0.2 percent at 14,791.99. Japan's sales tax rose Tuesday to 8 percent from 5 percent, a change needed to help stabilize government finances but also a possible setback for consumer demand and economic recovery. Separately, the central bank's quarterly business survey showed muted confidence that could affect spending and investment plans.

Other Asian markets largely shrugged off two surveys that showed weakness in China's manufacturing.

A factory purchasing managers' index released by the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing ticked up to 50.3 in March from 50.2 in February. Economists said the increase should have been bigger as factories ramped up after the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

Separately, HSBC's manufacturing index fell to 48.0 from 48.5, slightly worse than a preliminary report and its third consecutive monthly drop. Both indexes use a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

HSBC said its reading implies that first quarter economic growth likely fell below the 7.5 percent rate that China's leaders have targeted for the full year.

Seoul's Kospi gained 0.3 percent to 1,991.98. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.1 percent to 5,389.17.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.3 percent to 22,338.54 and China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.7 percent to 2,047.46.

Koji Takeuchi, senior analyst at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo, said the Bank of Japan's weaker-than-expected "tankan" survey made the Tokyo market nervous about recent gains.

"There is some uncertainty about the future of the Japanese economy so people are being careful," he said.

That countered the recent upbeat mood, thanks to the weakening yen, a plus for the giant exporters of Japan Inc., and a rise in U.S. stocks, said Takeuchi.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3793 from $1.3776 late Monday. The dollar rose to 103.25 yen from 102.20 yen.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 27 cents at $101.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 9 cents to $101.58 on Monday.

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