World stocks up

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Bullsandbears REUTERS A bull and a bear styrofoam figurine.

World stock markets edged up Wednesday as rising home prices in the US eased jitters over the robustness of the world's No. 1

economy.

A report on Tuesday showed that US home prices rose 1.3 percent in April, the first increase in seven months and an uptick in a sector closely tied to the health of the overall economy.

European shares rose modestly in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 moved 0.2 percent higher to 5,459.65. Germany's DAX added 0.3

percent to 6,153.09 and France's CAC-40 rose 0.1 percent to 3,016.91.

The US housing data was a sorely needed bright spot that helped power Wall Street to gains on Tuesday. But a day later, the effect wore off. Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial futures fell 0.1 percent to 12,468 and S&P 500f futures lost 0.1

percent at 1,313.80.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.8 percent to close at 8,730.49 as traders awaited the start Thursday of a summit in Brussels where European Union leaders will try to reach an agreement on dealing with the continent's chronic debt crisis.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1 percent to 19,176.95 and South Korea's Kospi was nearly unchanged at 1,817.65. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed. The Shanghai Composite Index fell for a sixth straight trading day, down 0.2 percent to 2,216.93. The Shenzhen Composite Index rose marginally to 918.38.

Analysts said investors were refraining from big moves ahead of the EU summit, which is the latest attempt to calm a financial crisis roiling the 17-nation euro currency union.

“Buying interest is not strong. Right now the overall market is quite cautious,” said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. He said he thought it unlikely that a breakthrough would take place at the summit, given the reluctance of Germany to accept the idea of eurobonds or a banking union that might expose it to the risks of smaller countries hobbled by recessions and debts.

Among individual stocks, Japan's Sony Corp. fell 0.9 percent after frustrated shareholders approved Kazuo Hirai as new president and chief executive. Sony reported its worst loss in its 66-year corporate history for the business year ended March.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power Co., whose damaged power plant set off a nuclear crisis following Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, fell 3.1 percent as shareholders met to weigh the company's future.

Chinese property shares posted strong gains. Hong Kong-listed China Resources Land Ltd. rose 4.9 percent while China Overseas Land & Investment gained 4.3 percent.

Worrisome developments in Europe have kept markets in check. Spain's borrowing costs jumped Tuesday in a pair of short-term debt auctions, the latest sign that investors are hesitant to lend the country money. The day before, the credit rating agency Moody's lowered ratings on 28 Spanish banks.

Markets have also been battered by signs of withering economic growth around the world. Manufacturing has slowed in China, and hiring has weakened in the US Analysts said some easing of monetary policy by China could help improve the outlook for growth in the world's No. 2 economy, but that a major gesture by the Chinese central bank was not expected.

Benchmark oil for August delivery was down 40 cents at $78.99 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 15 cents to settle at $79.36 in New York on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 79.57 yen from 79.47 yen late Tuesday in New York. The euro fell slightly to $1.2495 from $1.2499. - Sapa-AP


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