Stocks gain momentum, Europe at seven-year high
By Jamie McGeever
LONDON (Reuters) - World stocks marched higher again on Thursday, drawing support from European auto sales and German trade data, while expectations that the first U.S. interest rate increase will come in the latter part of the year continue to grow.
Investors also breathed a sigh of relief as Greece confirmed it will pay a 450 million-euro loan tranche to the International Monetary Fund on Thursday, meeting a deadline and taking the immediate heat off the cash-strapped country.
In early trading, Europe's EuroFirst 300 index of leading shares was up 0.5 percent at a seven-year high of 1,619 points .FTEU3, putting the index on track for its ninth weekly gain in the last 10.
Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE and Germany's DAX .GDAXI were also both 0.5 percent higher at 6,972 points and 12,094 points, respectively.
"The fundamental upward trend in German industry is intact, despite some monthly volatility," said Andreas Rees, chief German economist at UniCredit.
German industrial production rose, while imports and exports both grew faster than expected in February, data on Thursday showed. Auto industry figures published late on Wednesday, meanwhile, showed that the auto sector's recovery is broadening to France, Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Earlier in Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gained 0.7 percent to its highest since mid-September. That marks nine straight winning sessions, its best run since September 2013.
Japanese stocks rose 0.75 percent to a 15-year high, while Hong Kong .HSI powered up 2.7 percent to a seven-year peak. Hong Kong is up nearly 7 percent so far this week, by far its best week since December 2011. Continued...