World shares, commodities and growth-linked currencies rose on Thursday as stronger-than-expected Chinese exports raised hopes of a more robust recovery in the global economy this year.
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However, gains in Europe's equity markets were more limited with investors waiting for European Central Bank President Mario Draghi to give his views on the outlook for the recession-bound euro zone after a rate setting meeting later in the day.
"We're not expecting him to move on policy, but what Mr Draghi might have to say could be of interest with respect to possible interest rate cuts further down the line," Michael Hewson, senior analyst at CMC Markets, said.
A strong response by investors to Spain's first debt sale of 2013 added to the positive sentiment in the markets ahead of the ECB meeting at which it is expected to leave rates unchanged.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index steadied just under its 2-year high of 1,169.19 points, with London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX were also little changed.
Earlier the Chinese data lifted Asian markets to help the MSCI world equity index add 0.25 percent.
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Gains in the S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq 100 futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street, where the main focus will be on corporate earnings as the fourth quarter reporting season gathers pace.
China surprised most observers by reporting its exports had rebounded sharply in December to hit a seven-month high, with imports growing at double the expected rate. However, the data showed demand for its goods from the United States and Europe remained subdued.
A broad measure of Chinese credit growth was also found to have risen strongly, making it likely that the world's second-largest economy will be shown to have expanded by around 7.8 percent in 2012 when fourth quarter GDP data come out next week.
China's GDP growth touched a 3-1/2-year low of 7.4 percent between July and September last year.
The strength of imports revealed in the data stoked hopes of greater demand across the commodity markets, lifting copper, iron ore and oil prices.
"Risk is back on after the China data," said Carsten Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "General market sentiment is much more positive, with hopes of better growth pushing up most markets."
London copper was up 0.9 percent at $8,156 a tonne while U.S. crude futures rose 1.4 percent to $94.45 a barrel and Brent futures added one percent to $112.90.
The economic report from China, Australia's largest trading partner, sent the Aussie dollar to a three-week high of $1.0568 and contributed to further falls in the Japanese yen.
The yen has been weakening on expectations of massive fiscal spending and aggressive monetary easing in the coming weeks advocated by the new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The dollar was up 0.4 percent to 88.22 yen, inching closer to its highest since July 2010 of 88.48 reached on Friday. The euro was also up 0.5 percent to 115.43 yen. Last week it hit 115.99 yen, its highest since July 2011.
SPANISH STRAINS EASE
The euro received an extra boost after Spain successfully sold a larger-than-expected amount of new bonds for a lower cost at a closely watched debt auction.
Madrid raised 5.8 billion euros ($7.56 billion) at the sale, up from an expected 5 billion euros, taking its first step towards borrowing the 121.3 billion euros the government says it needs this year.
Most of the demand was for a bond maturing in 2015 that would be covered by an ECB bond-buying programme if Spain were to apply for international aid, though the success of the auction has probably pushed back the timing of any request.
"Against this backdrop the Spanish government will be in no rush to request external assistance," said Nick Stamenkovic, macro strategist at RIA Capital Markets, who added that he still expects Madrid to call for help by mid-2013.
The euro rose 0.2 percent to its highest level of the day of $1.3094 after the auction, while yields on 10-year Spanish bonds fell below 5 percent to reach a 10-month low of 4.99 percent.