European stocks edge higher on news of Japanese stimulus

European stock markets closed with modest gains on Friday, while the euro rose against the dollar as traders digested Chinese inflation data and the announcement of a stimulus package in Japan.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies added 0.33 percent to 6,121.58 points while

Frankfurt's DAX 30 was 0.09 percent higher at 7,715.53 points and the Paris CAC 40 edged up by 0.08 percent to 3,706.02 points.

The market in Madrid rose by by 0.53 percent to 8,664.70 points, while in Milan it gained a modest 0.29 percent to 17,502 points.

"Equity markets have largely endured a sideways session as traders weigh additional stimulus in Japan against CPI numbers out of China that sparked fears of a slowdown in government spending, with European mining and resources stocks weighing heavily on the major indices," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

In London, shares in the mining group BHP Billiton slumped by 2.67 percent to 2,075.00 pence, while Tullow Oil shed 3.18 percent to 1,186.00 pence

The European single currency climbed to $1.3353 from $1.3261 in New York on Thursday. Sterling was sharply down against the euro and dollar following poor British manufacturing data, dealers said.

The yen tumbled against rival currencies after Japan's new leaders unveiled a stimulus package worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

The dollar climbed to 89.89 yen at one point in Tokyo -- the highest level since June 2010.

The euro also surged to 119.01 yen in London trading.

On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold fell to $1,657.50 an ounce from $1,675 on Thursday.

ETX Capital analyst Ishaq Siddiqi commented that European equity markets had flipped back and forth during the day but ultimately went "nowhere as investors hold back from taking bold moves ahead of high-profile US fourth quarter earnings next week."

In New York, US stocks were soft in midday trading, held down by disappointing November foreign trade data and signs in Wells Fargo's quarterly earnings that its interest margin had tightened.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat, the broad-based S&P 500 slipped by 0.19 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite was off by 0.17 percent.

US Department of Commerce data showed that the US trade deficit widened sharply in November, posting its highest level in seven months at $48.7 billion amid a jump in consumer-goods imports.

Most Asian stock markets had closed lower earlier in the day but Tokyo hit a 23-month high as the yen sank owing to Japan's stimulus package.

While the yen came under fresh selling pressure after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlined his economy-boosting plan, the euro was lifted also by unexpectedly positive comments about the eurozone by European Central Bank head Mario Draghi.

Among a long list of positives, he pointed to lower bond yields, higher stock prices, record-low volatility, strong inflows into the eurozone, a halt of capital flight in peripheral countries and a reduction of the ECB's balance sheet.

"If you look at the overall landscape taking, let's say, a medium-term perspective...you will see a significant improvement in financial market conditions," Draghi said on Thursday after the ECB left eurozone interest rates on hold.

Draghi added that the debt crisis was not yet over, but added that while the overriding fear last year had been one of "contagion" and that the crisis would deepen and spread, there was also "positive contagion when things go well."

Siddiqi remarked that "traders have had to take in a lot of information and it could be said that many are still assessing the implications of the ECBs latest statement."

burs-wai/rl

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