European Stocks Rise on China Comments

The euro started firmer and stocks gained as investors focused on the growing flood of money from major central banks seen as supporting global economic growth and on hopes Greece will ultimately take the steps needed to secure its second bailout.

Reassurance from Chinese authorities that the nation, which has vast foreign currency reserves, will keep investing in debt issued by euro-zone governments, also supported sentiment.

"This market is trading very much on risk sentiment, the China comments were good news for the European debt situation and thereby a positive for the euro," said Niels Christensen, FX strategist at Nordea.

"Regarding Greece, the general opinion is that some way or another they will reach an agreement and Greece will get its financial aid at some point.

Euro zone finance ministers have dropped plans for a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday on Greece's new international bailout after failing to get the required commitments from party leaders in Athens, although there have been signs that these will ultimately be given. {ID:nL5E8DF01W]

The euro was up 0.25 percent at $1.3160, moving away from Tuesday's low around $1.3080 but off an intraday high of $1.3174 hit in Asian trade.

The Asian gains were helped when China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan reiterated previous commitments from Premier Wen Jiabao, that China was ready to play a bigger role in solving Europe's debt problems, noting the country had not cut its reserves exposure to the euro zone.

Meanwhile, after the Bank of Japan joined central banks in the U.S. and Europe in easing monetary policy on Tuesday there were rising hopes the measures will support the equities rally, which has seen world stocks gain over 9 percent so far this year.

Marginally better than expected French and German data on fourth quarter economic output added to the positive mood ahead of the first look at the performance of the euro zone economy for the same period, which is expected to show a contraction as the performance of more peripheral economies worsens.

The first estimate of performance in the euro zone in the final three months of 2011 will likely show a contraction of 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter after growth 0.2 percent in the previous period.

According to a Reuters poll published last month, a majority of economists expect the euro zone to contract further in the current quarter, which would formally signal a slump.

The FTSEurofirst index of top European companies opened up 0.3 percent at 1,073.32 points, while after gains in Asia, the MSCI world equity index was up 0.6 percent.

The United States will release January factory output and capacity utilisation figures later in the day which are expected to add to the signs of improvement in the global economy.

Meanwhile oil prices gained as supply concerns in the Middle East sparked by tensions over Iran and disruptions in South Sudan outweighed worries about progress on the Greek debt deal and the current weakness in the global economy.

April Brent crude futures were up 76 cents at $118.11 a barrel and U.S. crude oil futures rose over $1 to trade as high as $101.76 a barrel.