World shares open higher as earnings improve


BANGKOK — World stock markets opened the week in positive territory Monday amid a string of strong corporate earnings results in Japan and signs that Egypt was returning to normalcy after days of anti-government unrest. Oil prices hovered below US$89 a barrel as traders mulled mixed signals from the U.S. jobs market about economic growth and crude demand. In currencies, the U.S. dollar rose against the yen but was lower against the euro. European shares were higher in early trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.8 percent to 6,046.21. Germany’s DAX was up 0.8 percent to 7,274.30, and the CAC-40 in Paris climbed 1 percent to 4,089.31. Wall Street also looked set to post a day of gains, with Dow futures up 0.4 percent to 12,088 and S&P also ahead by 0.4 percent, to 1,312.70. Traders are closely watching developments in Egypt, where government officials met Sunday with some opposition leaders in an effort to negotiate an end to nearly two weeks of protests that came close to toppling the government and put a cloud over financial markets. The Nikkei 225 stock average rose 0.5 percent to close at 10,592.04, with exporters like Toyota Motor Corp. generally advancing. Toyota rose 0.9 percent. Some companies that reported improved earnings late last week also gained, including Hitachi Ltd., up 2.3 percent, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., up 1.6 percent. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.5 percent to 2,081.74. Markets in India and New Zealand also advanced while stocks in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore sank. Indexes in mainland China and Taiwan remained closed for Lunar New Year holidays. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 1.5 percent to 23,553.59, heralding possible anxiety over whether China will soon hike interest rates to stem inflation. Analysts had predicted a hike before the holiday but then put such speculation on hold as angry street protests in Egypt picked up steam. Meanwhile, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent to 4,868.50 despite weakness among Australian mining giants. BHP Billiton fell 0.3 percent, Rio Tinto lost 0.6 percent and Newcrest Mining shed 0.8 percent. “We’ve got metals and mining companies leading the way down after some strong gains,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage AU$1 billion at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne. He said that “softer than expected” unemployment figures from the U.S. on Friday led to some profit-taking on the Australian exchange. The U.S. Labor Department said the unemployment rate dropped to 9 percent in January, the lowest rate since April 2009 and a sharp fall from 9.4 percent in December. At the same time, the government said that only 36,000 new jobs were created last month, the fewest in four months. The slow job growth left some analysts doubting that the economic recovery is gathering momentum. In New York on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 29.89 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 12,092.15. Gold closed at US$1,347.50-US$1,348.50 an ounce in Hong Kong, up from Wednesday’s close of US$1,340.70-US$1,341.70. In other markets: — Singapore closed down 0.59 percent, or 18.94 points, at 3,192.18. — Jakarta fell 0.24 percent, or 8.46 points, to 3,487.71.

— Kuala Lumpur gained 0.25 percent, or 3.78 points, to 1,535.60. — Manila rose 0.20 percent, or 7.68 points, to 3,880.03. — Wellington rose 0.58 percent, or 19.59 points, to 3,387.41.