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Markets positive despite another UK bank storm


February 16. 2013 2:04PM


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(AP) Financial markets retained their optimistic tone on Tuesday as investor sentiment continued to be shored up by an easing of concerns over the state of the U.S. economy and hopes that the European Central Bank will play a more pivotal role in Europe's debt crisis.


Allegations that British-based bank Standard Chartered was colluding with Iran has hit its share price hard losing a fifth of their value in midmorning trading. The bank's problems had a knock-on effect on London's main FTSE 100 stock index, which was off 0.2 percent. Standard Chartered makes up 1.5 per cent of the index's overall market value.


However, the spillover effect across Europe has been minimal. Germany's DAX was up 0.5 percent at 6,951 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.6 percent to 3,421. Madrid's IBEX stock index has also enjoyed a solid run of late and was trading another 1.1 percent higher Tuesday.


The main driver in markets over the past few days was last Friday's figures showing the U.S. economy generated a greater than anticipated 163,000 jobs in July.


A reassessment of comments from ECB president Mario Draghi over the bank's anti-crisis strategy in the months to come and a hint from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that he could request a financial bailout for his country have also added to the prevailing positive tone. Many indexes around the world have clambered up to multi-month highs, while the euro has pushed above $1.24 after another 0.2 percent gain Tuesday.


"It is rare that comments made in the eurozone keep sentiment high for sustained periods of time," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari. "However, there is something different about this one."


Despite a wobble Thursday when Draghi failed to come up with concrete proposals about the bank's strategy to deal with Europe's debt crisis, stocks and the euro have enjoyed solid gains for the best part of two weeks on hopes the ECB will step up its bond-buying program to keep a lid on the borrowing rates of countries like Spain and Italy.


Both countries have seen their borrowing costs drop to more manageable levels in Spain's case, the yield on its benchmark 10-year bonds remains below the 7 percent level considered unsustainable in the long-run.


"On the basis of there usually being no smoke without fire, these are likely to be testing times for the bank ahead of the appearance before the regulators next week," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.


Wall Street was poised for a solid open later with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent.


Earlier, most Asian markets eked out gains, with Japan's Nikkei 225 index rising 0.9 percent to close at 8,803.31. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.4 percent to 20,072.55. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 1,886.80.


Mainland Chinese shares also rose. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1 percent to 2,157.62. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.8 percent to 898.48.


Hopes that China's central bank was preparing to announce steps to spur growth in the world's No. 2 economy also helped boost confidence in stocks. A weekend statement by the People's Bank of China was interpreted as a sign that more monetary easing was in store.


Oil prices eked out modest gains alongside equities, with benchmark crude for September delivery up 13 cents to $92.34 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


Associated Press


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