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International markets news

A roundup of trading on major world markets.

NEW YORK - Wall Street stocks edged higher as investors waited for more indications on the health of US companies from earnings reports.

Economic reports were mixed.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 37 points at 13,428 heading into the final hour of trade. It had been up as much as 54 points in the early going.

The Standard & Poor's 500 was up x points to 1,466, putting it on track to match its highest close in five years.

The Nasdaq composite was down one point at 3,105.

European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said the struggling euro zone should start growing again later this year, but he warned that the region has yet to reach a turning point in its struggle with recession and handling its government debt load.

The comments bolstered expectations that the worst of the region's crisis may be behind it.

Investors were also cheered by a report that showed China may gradually be emerging from its worst economic downturn since the 2008 global crisis. Export growth for the world's second largest economy rebounded strongly in December.

That good news was offset by a US government report that weekly applications for unemployment benefits ticked up last week.

The Labor Department said applications rose 4,000 to 371,000, the most in five weeks. The previous week's total was revised lower.

Ford was among the gainers after the company doubled its quarterly dividend to 10 cents, just nine months after paying its first dividend in more than five years.

LONDON - A rally by European stocks on strong Chinese trade data lost steam after the European Central Bank and Bank of England held key interest rates steady.

However the euro gained against the US dollar as traders reacted to positive bond sales by indebted eurozone nations Spain and Italy.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies posted a narrow gain of 0.05 per cent to 6,101.51 points.

But Frankfurt's DAX 30 slid 0.16 per cent to 7,708.47 points, and Paris's CAC 40 fell 0.39 per cent to 3,703.12 points.

Better than expected trade data from China provided further evidence the world's second biggest economy has emerged from a drawn-out slumber, dealers said.

This gave an early boost to European stocks, but this began to fade after the ECB, as expected, kept rates at a record low of 0.75 per cent, despite a new high in unemployment within the recession-hit 17-nation eurozone.

Later comments by ECB chief Mario Draghi indicated that a further rate cut or stimulus measures were not on the cards.

The BoE also maintained, as expected, its borrowing costs at a record low of 0.50 per cent and left the amount of stimulus measures unchanged.

HONG KONG - Asian markets climbed after China released better than expected trade data that provided further evidence the world's number two economy has emerged from a drawn-out slumber.

The Nikkei in Japan was also boosted by the continued weakness of the yen, while a rally on Wall Street capped a two-day losing streak and provided extra impetus to Asian buyers.

Tokyo closed up 0.7 per cent, or 74.07 points, at 10,652.64.

Seoul climbed 0.75 per cent, or 14.99 points, to 2006.80, Hong Kong jumped 0.59 per cent, or 135.84 points, to 23,354.31 and Shanghai added 0.37 per cent, or 8.32 points, at 2283.66.

China said its trade surplus surged 48.1 per cent to $US231.1 billion ($A220.80 billion) in 2012 from the previous year, helped by a 7.9 per cent rise in exports to $US2.05 trillion, while imports increased 4.3 per cent $US1.82 trillion.

However, the trade volume, the total of exports and imports, grew 6.2 per cent, below the government target of about 10 per cent.

The figures are the latest in a string of data in recent months that indicate the world's second biggest economy has finally turned a corner after seven straight quarters of slowing growth.

WELLINGTON - New Zealand shares rose to push the NZX 50 Index to a new five-year high, as expectations of a pickup in building activity lifted companies such as Fletcher Building, Steel & Tube Holdings and Cavalier.

The NZX 50 rose 15.54 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,119.08, the highest since November 2008.