European markets up ahead of expected US advance, 2nd Ld-Writethru

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LONDON (AP) — European stock markets rose modestly Monday in the wake of a late rally on Wall Street last week but trading volumes were low as traders shut up shop for the Christmas break.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 31.89 points, or 0.6 percent, at 5,228.70 while Germany’s DAX rose 32.48 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,863.69. The CAC-40 in France was 17.97 points, or 0.5 percent, higher at 3,812.41.

Wall Street was also poised to open modestly higher at the open later — Dow futures were up 11 points, or 0.1 percent, at 10,282 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 futures rose 1.6 point, or 0.2 percent, to 1,099.30.

On Friday, U.S. stocks recouped earlier big losses to close slightly higher.

Cameron Peacock, a market analyst at IG Markets said Friday’s closing rally on Wall Street has defined the pace of the open in Europe and added that “with fundamental data now running thin on the ground ahead of the Christmas break, this could well set the tone for the rest of the day.”

Activity in all markets is being affected heavily by the upcoming year-end — many investors have already packed up for the year for the Christmas and New Year break. With others set to follow suit in the coming days, trading could well be fairly volatile, especially if those remaining decide to book profits accumulated over the nine-month bull run.

Earlier, Asia experienced a mixed session, with Japan’s Nikkei index boosted by figures showing that the country’s exports fell by their smallest amount in 14 months during November. The news raised hopes that a turnaround in Japan’s export sector, the engine of the country’s economy, is sustainable.

However, sentiment in the region was dampened by sluggish sessions in Hong Kong and Shanghai as investors were spooked by signs China’s government may step up restrictions on the booming real estate sector and the country’s banks may have to raise billions in new capital.

The Nikkei advanced 41.42 points, or 0.4 percent, to 10,183.47. Markets in Taiwan and Thailand also rose.

Hong Kong’s benchmark dropped 227.78 points, or 1.1 percent, to 20,948.10. China’s Shanghai index was down most of the day before closing 0.3 percent higher at 3,122.97.

And South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.2 percent, Australia’s market lost 0.3 percent.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.4 percent, the S&P 500 index fell 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq rose 1 percent.

Oil prices were slightly lower, with benchmark crude for January delivery down 12 cents to $73.24. The January contract, which expires later on Monday, rose 71 cents on Friday.

In the currency markets, the euro recovered modestly from three and a half dollar lows of $1.4281, trading 0.2 percent higher on the day at $1.4333.

The dollar has bounced back from 15-month lows in the last three weeks amid mounting expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start withdrawing its extraordinary liquidity measures and raising interest rates sooner than expected. Meanwhile, the euro has been dogged by concerns over the economic situation in Greece in particular.

Meanwhile, the dollar was 0.1 percent higher at 90.41 yen — as recently as late November, the dollar had sunk to a 14-year low of 84.81 yen.

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