FROM MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD:
U.S. STOCK MARKETS
U.S. stocks rallied as signs of a worsening U.S. labor market and European debt picture bolstered investors' hopes that central bankers will again come to the rescue. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 155.53 points, or 1.2%, to 12651.91.
Hong Kong-China gold flow jumps 62 pct in April
The blue-chip benchmark rose after labor and inflation data sparked speculation the Federal Reserve would announce further economic-stimulus efforts.
The Dow briefly spiked in the final hour of trading, extending gains to as much as 202 points, after Reuters reported that central banks were preparing to provide liquidity to the markets if needed after the Greek election.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index advanced 14.22 points, or 1.1%, to 1329.10. Telecommunications and energy companies paced advances across all of the index's 10 sectors. Slot-machine maker International Game Technology jumped 14%, leading the index higher, after unveiling stock-buyback plans.
The Nasdaq Composite rose 17.72 points, or 0.6%, to 2836.33. The number of Americans making initial claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose, while the prior week's figure was revised higher.
Meanwhile, U.S. consumer prices fell in May, in line with expectations, as plunging gasoline costs offset higher rents and medical-care prices. Excluding food and energy, consumer prices rose 0.2% from April, also matching economists' forecasts.
The weak employment data and lack of evidence of accelerating inflation were seen as improving the chances of the Fed unveiling further monetary stimulus after its Federal Open Market Committee meeting next week.
In other corporate news, U.S.-listed shares of Finland's Nokia dropped 16% after the handset maker announced a shake-up of management and said it would cut an additional 10,000 jobs by the end of next year as it deals with increased competition. Smithfield Foods fell 5.7% after the pork processor reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that missed analyst expectations, according to FactSet Research.
EUROPEAN STOCK MARKETS
Italian and Spanish stocks surprised in late action Thursday, and Greece's benchmark surged, after unofficial Greek polls pointed to a New Democracy victory in the upcoming election. However, pressure remained on southern European bond yields after a fresh Spain downgrade.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index closed 0.3% lower at 241.84, dropping for a second consecutive day. Most core markets moved lower, while peripheral markets posted solid gains.
Nokia Corp. posted the biggest drop in the pan-European index, tumbling 17.8% after the company said it would cut 10,000 jobs and shuffle top management.
That was the worst daily performance for the stock since June 2001, according to FactSet. Credit Suisse Group AG dropped 10.5% after the Swiss National Bank urged the banking group to increase capital to prepare for an escalation of the euro-area crisis.
The Athens General Index soared 10.1% to 550.10 following unofficial polling data that reportedly pointed to a victory for the pro-austerity party New Democracy when the Greeks head for the voting booths for the second time in two months on Sunday.
Polls are banned in the weeks leading up to an election in Greece and the main concern has been if anti-austerity party Syriza will get enough votes to form a government, which some people speculate could lead to Greece eventually leaving the euro.
The chief economist at Saxo Bank, Steen Jakobsen, said that the poll excitement further spilled over into Spanish and Italian stock markets, where indexes erased earlier losses.
The IBEX 35 index closed 1.2% higher at 6,696.00, while Italy's FTSE MIB index added 1.5% to 13,084.62. Spanish bonds saw another day of intense selling pressure, after Moody's Investors Service late Wednesday cut the country's credit rating to Baa3 from A3 and put it on review for a possible further downgrade.
Egan-Jones Ratings Co. downgraded its sovereign rating on Spain further into junk Wednesday to CCC+ from B. Yields on 10-year Spanish government bonds surged 17 basis points to 6.89%, according to electronic trading platform Tradeweb.
In Italy, the government succeeded in selling its targeted 4.5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) in an auction widely perceived as a key test of market confidence for the country's economy, although yields surged. In the secondary market, yields on 10-year Italian government bonds fell 9 basis points to 6.11%, according to Tradeweb.
The FTSE 100 index lost 0.3% to 5,467.05, hurt by a 3.5% fall for British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC. News reports said the cable network and BT Group PLC agreed to pay $4.7 billion to secure the rights to broadcast the English Premier League soccer games live in the U.K.
BT Group also fell 3.5%. In France, the CAC 40 index rose 0.1% to 3,032.45. Shares of Credit Agricole SA added 1.2% after the bank said late Wednesday it is considering cutting its stake in its Emporiki Bank unit if Greece leaves the euro zone.
Peugeot SA weighed on the index, down 2.2%. S&P Equity Research reiterated its sell rating on the car maker. In Germany, the DAX 30 index fell 0.2% to 6,138.61. Daimler AG was down 2% and BMW AG gave up 2.6%.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS
Asian markets fell Thursday as concerns about the ability of European countries to borrow added to lingering concerns about Greek elections this weekend.
Fears about the health of Spain's financial system were prominent, after Moody's Investors Service downgraded Spain by three notches-to Baa3. Japan's Nikkei dropped by 0.2% to 8568.89, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 1.2% to 18,808.40 and the China Shanghai Composite was 1% lower at 2295.95.
South Korea's Kospi stood out as the only major regional market to finish higher. Flat for most of the day, the market rallied in the final moments of trading as foreign investors quickly switched from net sellers to net buyers, pushing the index 0.7% higher to 1871.48.
Although the Hang Seng Index was lower on Thursday, investors were already looking ahead to a visit by senior officials from Beijing in July, who are expected to offer something for the local economy.
There are expectations that visiting leaders could allow mainland professional investors to buy shares in Hong Kong, via a special qualified domestic institutional investor program, which pushed up Hong Kong subsidiaries of mainland brokers: Haitong International gained 5.5% and Guotai Junan climbed 3.3%.
Also in Hong Kong, further upheaval at Esprit punished the fashion retailer's share price, which ended down 12.4% after the chairman resigned due to personal reasons.
Shares in major flat screen television manufacturers rose, after a Nikkei report that the prices of flat-panel TV sets at large retailers are heading up. Sharp gained 2.2% and Panasonic gained 2.5%.
Base metals closed mixed on the London Metal Exchange Thursday following a lackluster trading session that saw prices struggle for traction in either direction.
At the close, LME three-month copper was 0.3% higher on the day at $7,420 a metric ton. Aluminum was down 0.5% at $1,954/ton. Crude oil futures prices rose 1.6% Thursday, settling near $84 a barrel, amid fresh hopes of a new move by the Federal Reserve to stimulate the U.S. economy.
Light, sweet crude oil for July delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 1.6%, or $1.29 a barrel, higher at $83.91 a barrel, the highest level since Friday.
ICE July Brent crude oil expired down 10 cents at the settlement, at $97.03 a barrel. Gold ended near flat as hopes for possible U.S. monetary easing were balanced out by investor worries about the financial stability of euro-zone economies. The most actively traded contract, for August delivery, gained 0.01%, or 20 cents, to settle at $1,619.60 per troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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