European stocks climb on hopes of deal to avert fiscal cliff

Europe's main stock markets climbed on Tuesday as investors welcomed signs of progress in talks on a new deficit-cutting budget to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff in the United States, dealers said.

In afternoon deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading shares rose 0.34 percent to 5,932.22 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 index won 0.39 percent to 7,634.63 points and the Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.09 percent to 3,641.22 points.

Milan's FTSE Mib index added 0.55 percent to 16,093.49 points, ahead of a key budget vote by the Italian parliament, while Madrid's IBEX 35 gained 0.95 percent to 8,117.0 points.

US stocks also opened higher Tuesday amid signs of progress to avert the "fiscal cliff."

In the first five minutes of trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.11 percent, the broad-market S&P 500 points gained 0.08 percent, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.23 percent.

"The market appears taken with the idea that new proposals are at least being advanced by both sides that differ from prior versions, suggesting last week's stalemate in the negotiation process has ended," said Briefing.com's Patrick O'Hare.

The European single currency firmed to $1.3177, up from $1.3161 late in New York on Monday. Gold prices advanced to $1,699.50 an ounce on the London Bullion Market, from $1,695.75.

In company news, Rolls-Royce shares rallied 1.34 percent to 871 pence in London after it confirmed a $1-billion contract with Japan's Skymark Airlines for Trent 900 engines to power six Airbus A380 aircraft.

Asian equities mostly rose on Tuesday, taking a lead from Wall Street as dealers grow confident US lawmakers will reach an agreement.

Politicians are seeking to break the deadlock and avert automatic taxation hikes and spending cuts that are due to come into effect on January 1 in the United States.

Experts fear that the fiscal cliff package could tip the world's biggest economy back into recession.

"Giving markets a boost is a late rally in US stocks yesterday evening carrying over to European markets this morning as President Obama indicated that he would be willing to raise the income threshold by which tax increases would come into effect," said ETX Capital trader Markus Huber.

"As expected -- with the end of the year approaching fast (and) a rather empty economic data schedule ... focus will mostly be on US budget negotiations with the smallest hint of progress or setback can have a substantial impact on the markets," he said.

Any indication that there is some movement in the budget negotiations and that the two parties are making an effort to find a solution "is enough to keep markets moving higher," added Huber.

President Barack Obama hosted top Republican lawmaker John Boehner in the White House for 45 minutes on Monday in the latest effort to avert going over the fiscal cliff.

The meeting follows news that Boehner had changed his position on not allowing any more taxes, saying at the weekend that he would agree to some hikes for people earning more than $1 million.

Originally Obama insisted higher taxes kick in for households earning more than $250,000, but has since offered to increase the threshold to $400,000.

Analysts say the development shows the outline of a tentative deal is being formed.

Continued weakness of the yen helped send Japanese shares surging for a second straight session as Shinzo Abe prepares to take over as prime minister, vowing to press a more aggressive policy of monetary easing.

Tokyo rose 0.96 percent and Seoul was up 0.51 percent, while Sydney added 0.48 percent.

Shanghai increased by 0.10 percent, while Hong Kong gave up earlier gains to end flat.

The election of Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party on Sunday was widely expected and investors now expect the Bank of Japan to unveil a further loosening of monetary policy at the end of its two-day meeting on Thursday.

In Tokyo share trading, utility giant TEPCO, which runs the Fukushima plant at the centre of last year's nuclear crisis, surged 17.32 percent on expectations the new government will shelve any short-term plans to ditch atomic power.

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