World markets surge on global stimulus hopes

LONDON – December 8, 2008 The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 168.70 points, or 4.2 percent, at 4,218.07, while Germany's DAX was 242.97 points, or 5.6 percent, higher at 4,624.44. The CAC-40 in France rose 174.33 points, or 5.8 percent, to 3,162.34.

Earlier, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 1,198.78 points, or 8.7 percent, to 15,044.87 - its highest close in seven weeks - while Japan's Nikkei 225 average jumped 411.54 points, or 5.2 percent, to 8,329.05.

The gains came despite Friday's news that American employers cut 533,000 jobs in November - the most in 34 years - as investors appeared to signal their support for growth-promoting measures around the world.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrials rose 3.1 percent to 8,635.42, and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 3.7 percent to 876.07.

Futures pointed to further gains on Wall Street, with Dow futures up 181 points, or 2.1 percent, at 8,793 and S&P futures up 22.40 points, or 2.6 percent, at 894.80.

"The hour is darkest before the dawn and while the economic backdrop is absolutely dire, policy makers have now moved to an aggressively accommodative stance," said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, head of research at Charles Stanley in London.

Chinese officials were reportedly meeting this week to discuss possible new steps to expand the $586 billion of stimulus already planned, while in Washington, a bailout of ailing U.S. automakers appeared to be falling into place.

House and Senate aides were hammering out legislation that would dole out billions to Detroit's Big Three automakers within a week - but yank back the money if a government-run board and overseer decided the companies weren't taking steps to overhaul themselves and become viable.

Investors also cheered President-elect Barack Obama's plans, announced over the weekend, for the largest U.S. public works spending program since the creation of the interstate highway system a half-century ago.

India's government also said Sunday it plans to spend an additional $4 billion and cut some taxes to boost the nation's slowing economy, an announcement that came on the heels of the central bank slashing key interest rates by 1 percentage point.

"Weaker economic data have increased the pace at which monetary and fiscal authorities are putting support packages together," said Hans Redeker, an analyst at BNP Paribas.

Oil stocks were doing particularly well Monday as expectations of a big production cut from the OPEC oil cartel helped crude bounce back from four-year lows.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery was up $2.51 to $43.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell Friday nearly $3 to settle at $40.81. Prices fell as low as $40.50, levels last seen in December 2004.

Chakib Khelil, OPEC's president, said Saturday the oil cartel could announce a "severe" reduction of output quotas at its next meeting on Dec. 17 in Algeria.

Elsewhere in Asia, Mumbai's Sensex index was up 4.6 percent, while in mainland China, the Shanghai Composite index rose 3.6 percent.

Australia's benchmark index shot up more than 4 percent, led by banks and the nation's biggest retailers, as 8.7 billion Australian dollars of government handouts began to flow into the bank accounts of pensioners and low-income families.

Thailand's key index advanced 2.8 percent, taking a cue from gains around the region and also lifted by signs the business-friendly opposition Democrat Party will have the numbers to form a coalition government in the aftermath of Thailand's ruling party being dissolved for vote buying.

Markets in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were closed for public holidays.


Associated Press business writer Stephen Wright in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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