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World shares rise on China stimulus, US hiring

TOKYO (AP) -- World stock markets were mostly higher Thursday as investors took heart from new stimulus in China and evidence of stronger U.S. hiring.

Gains were modest, however, in early European trading, as markets awaited a decision by the European Central Bank on further monetary easing.

Germany's DAX inched up 0.04 percent to 9,628.78 and Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.1 percent higher at 6,659.04. France's CAC 40 slipped 0.03 percent to 4,429.45.

Wall Street looked ready for another day of gains, with Dow Jones and S&P 500 futures both up 0.1 percent.

U.S. stocks gained for a fourth straight day Wednesday after a report on hiring reinforced confidence the economy is emerging from a winter slump.

In a further boost to market sentiment, China's State Council, or cabinet, pledged Wednesday evening to do more to support companies, expand consumer demand and create jobs. The moves include increased railway investments and an easing of controls on property dealings in some cities.

That boosted buying of shares in railways and construction-related companies and helped to push Hong Kong's Hang Seng up 0.2 percent to 22,565.08.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index rose 0.8 percent to 15,071.88, buoyed by the weaker yen and buying of automakers and machine manufacturers such as industrial robot maker Fanuc Corp.

But Shanghai's Composite Index fell 0.7 percent to 2,043.70, weighed by worries over tightening liquidity and a possible restart of initial public offerings. Blue-chip "A-shares" cannot follow the lead of upbeat global markets, said Jackson Wong, a vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

"They haven't rolled anything out to boost A-shares. They're still worried about IPOs. They've got their own problems," Wong said.

South Korea's Kospi gave up early gains to edge 0.2 percent lower to 1,993.70 following the release of a central bank survey outlining banks' concerns over rising household debt risks.

Elsewhere in Asia, shares rose in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, but fell in India, Malaysia and Taiwan.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3764 from $1.3768 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 103.99 yen from 103.87 yen.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 30 cents at $99.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It closed Wednesday at $99.62, down 12 cents.

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