World stocks gain on US data, China stimulus hopes

LONDON (AP) — World stock markets pushed higher Friday after a measure of U.S. consumer spending rose and expectations grew that China will move to counter its economic slowdown.

Market sentiment has been buoyed this week by hopes for more stimulus in China as growth has slowed to its weakest since the financial crisis. Officials have set a target of 7.5 percent economic growth this year but are more concerned about ensuring sufficient new jobs are created than precisely meeting the GDP figure.

Stocks pushed higher on Friday after the U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending rose the most in three months in February. Consumer spending accounts for the bulk of economic activity in the U.S., the world's largest economy.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent to close at 6,615.58 while Germany's DAX index added 1.4 percent to 9,587.19. France's CAC 40 rose 0.7 percent to 4,411.26. On Wall Street, the Dow was up 0.7 percent at 16,379 while the S&P 500 rose 0.8 percent to 1,862.96.

In Asia, window dressing ahead of the fiscal year's end helped Japanese shares rebound from early losses after the government reported household spending fell in February, suggesting consumer demand is not rising as much as expected ahead of an April 1 sales tax hike.

Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.5 percent to close at 14,696.03. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 1,981. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.1 percent to 22,065.53. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.2 percent to 2,041.71 as major banks reported profits in line with analysts' forecasts.

In currency trading, the euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.3748 while the dollar rose 0.7 percent to 102.89 yen. A barrel of benchmark New York oil gained 40 cents to $101.68 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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