International markets roundup

A roundup of trading on major world markets:

NEW YORK - Wall Street stocks have dipped in opening trade following mixed US economic data.

In the final hour of trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 18,196.69, down 27.88 points (0.15 per cent).

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 5.37 points (0.25 per cent) to 2,108.58, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index was up 12.91 points (0.26 per cent) to 4,980.35.

Orders for US durable goods rose 2.8 per cent in January, the Commerce Department said, marking the first rise in three months.

However, labour department data showed initial jobless claims increased by 31,000 to 313,000 in the week ending February 21.

Consumer prices fell 0.7 per cent in January from the prior month, as plunging petrol prices kept a lid on inflation.

"Overall, we'd characterise today's economic data as mixed," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

"As such, it could contribute to market action that looks otherwise indecisive."

LONDON - European stocks have pushed higher, with London's benchmark FTSE 100 index and Frankfurt's DAX 30 index hitting record high closing levels as chances of a quick US interest rate hike recede.

The FTSE 100 on Thursday rose 0.21 per cent to 6,949.73 points, beating by a whisker the level set on Tuesday when it broke a 15-year record.

Meanwhile the DAX 30 index shot up 1.04 per cent to 11,327.19 points, boosted by more positive German economic data, and in Paris the CAC 40 climbed 0.58 per cent to 4,910.62 points.

Milan gained 1.04 per cent and Madrid rose 0.81 per cent.

While there was some positive data and company results in Europe on Thursday to push up the markets " ... it's the fact US interest rates aren't going anywhere fast that really counted," said TrustNet analyst Tony Cross.

"Today's news of negative inflation across the Atlantic means that monetary policy isn't going to tighten any time soon and equities can continue to climb in the wake of this," he added.

US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen also hinted in testimony to US lawmakers this week the central bank was in no hurry to raise interest rates.

HONG KONG - Asian markets have largely risen as Tokyo hit a fresh 15-year high, driven by dip buying after the previous day's fall while energy shares gained on higher oil prices.

The Nikkei 225 index added 1.08 per cent, or 200.59 points, to 18,785.79 on Thursday while the Topix index of all first-section issues gained 0.93 per cent, or 14.06 points, to 1,521.68.

South Korean shares closed 0.13 per cent higher, recovering from morning losses, with the benchmark KOSPI gaining 2.61 points to 1,993.08.

Hong Kong added 0.5 per cent, or 123.78 points to close on a one-month high of 24,902.06, led by gains in energy shares, while Shanghai jumped 2.15 per cent on expectations of more monetary easing in China.

Expectations have been building that Chinese authorities will announce more monetary easing ahead of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, the country's legislature, next week.

The Shanghai Composite Index added 69.52 points to close at 3,298.36 on turnover of 334.3 billion yuan ($A69.06 billion).

The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, rose 1.03 per cent, or 16.41 points, to 1,614.71 on turnover of 252.7 billion yuan.

"The market was boosted by expectations of more monetary policy easing, ahead of the meeting," Northeast Securities analyst Shen Zhengyang said.

"Investors are usually quite enthusiastic before the congress."

WELLINGTON - New Zealand shares have hit a record high for the second day in a row, with Xero again the market's darling.

The NZX 50 Index rose 19.39 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5861.682 on Thursday.

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