World stocks rise amid robust China growth figures

TOKYO (AP) — World stock markets advanced Wednesday, bolstered by robust Chinese growth figures that led to a solid day in Asia. Gains were limited in Europe as trading began amid ongoing worries about the continent’s debt problems.

Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.3 percent to 5,884.02 and Germany’s DAX rose 0.5 percent to 5,884.02. France’s CAC was almost flat at 3,772.71. Futures augured a higher open on Wall Street with Dow futures up 0.7 percent at 12,499.

In Asia, the latest data out of China showed that the country’s rapid economic growth slowed only slightly in the April-June quarter to 9.5 percent from 9.7 percent in the previous quarter.

The growth report alleviates concerns of an abrupt slowdown and gives Beijing room to tighten controls to fight climbing prices. The government has been trying to tame the world’s No. 2 economy, where inflation hit a three-year high in June. Beijing has hiked interest rates five times since October and tightened controls on lending and investment.

“This set of better-than-expected data does not guarantee continued strong performance in (the second half of 2011), but at least it eases the fear of a hard landing,” said Credit Suisse analyst Dong Tao.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index added 1.2 percent to 21,926.88, the Shanghai Composite index rose 0.5 percent to 2,768.21, and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.9 percent at 2,129.64.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average finished up 0.4 percent at 9,963.14 after the yen pulled back from its highest level against the U.S. dollar since mid-March earlier in the day.

After the dollar fell under the 79-yen level, Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda described the move as “slightly one-sided.” His comment to reporters triggered speculation that Japan might intervene in currency markets.

Financial and real estate issues were among the day’s big winners. Bargain-hunting after recent losses also fueled buying, said Cai Dagui, an analyst at Ping’an Securities.

Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. one of the country’s four biggest state-owned banks, gained 1.89 percent after it said its first-half profit may rise more than 45 percent thanks to higher interest and fee income.

In Hong Kong, China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. shot up 5.7 percent.

In Tokyo, trading houses made strides, with Mitsui & Co. jumping more than 2 percent. The company said Wednesday that it is making an offer worth 221 million Singapore dollars ($181 million) for Portek International Ltd., a port operator based in Singapore.

Elsewhere, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4 percent to 4,514.80, while New Zealand’s benchmark slipped 0.2 percent to 3,424.35.

In New York on Tuesday, bad news about Ireland sent Wall Street lower.

Ireland’s government bonds were downgraded by ratings agency Moody’s to junk status shortly before U.S. markets closed Tuesday. That pulled stocks sharply lower and erased the day’s gains.

The move puts Ireland back on the list of heavily indebted European countries in danger of default.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 58.88, or 0.5 percent, to close at 12,446.88.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 5.85, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,313.64. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 20.71, or 0.7 percent, to close at 2,781.

Oil prices hovered above $97 a barrel after a report showed U.S. crude supplies unexpectedly rose last week, suggesting demand is weak.

Benchmark oil for August delivery was up 11 cents to $97.54 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude gained $2.28 to settle at $97.43 on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar was trading at 79.20 yen, while the euro rose 0.9 percent to $1.4105.

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