European stocks, euro rally on strong German data

European stock markets advanced on Friday, with Frankfurt hitting a five-year high, as the euro rallied against the dollar following positive German data that helped to offset more woe for Britain.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 jumped 1.42 percent to 7,857.97 points, its highest level since the 2008 global financial crisis, as data showed German business confidence rising to a seven-month high in January.

In the Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.69 percent to reach 3,778.16 points.

Meanwhile London's FTSE 100 index of top companies managed a gain of 0.31 percent to 6,284.45 points, despite official figures revealing that Britain's economy is again on the brink of recession after contracting in the final quarter of 2012.

If Britain's economy shrink again in the current first quarter, the country will officially enter its third recession since 2008.

In foreign exchange trade on Friday, the European single currency surged to an 11-month high of $1.3479. It later eased back to $1.3457, still up compared with $1.3376 late on Thursday in New York.

The euro also spiked after the European Central Bank revealed that 278 eurozone banks will repay early 137.16 billion euros of ultra-cheap three-year loans made available to them last year through emergency liquidity measures.

Elsewhere, the British pound hit 13-month lows versus the European single currency following the the release of the poor growth data.

On the London Bullion Market meanwhile, gold prices eased to $1,660 an ounce from $1,671.

"Good news is coming out of Germany again," said Anita Paluch, a trader at Gekko Global Markets.

"This is strong evidence that the economic climate in the EU's largest economy is improving... As of now, Germany is shrugging off the lacklustre performance and is back on track as the powerhouse of Europe," she added.

Germany appears to have put the worst of the region's debt crisis behind it, data showed on Friday, with business confidence rising to its highest level in seven months.

The Ifo institute's closely watched business climate index for Europe's top economy rose to 104.2 points in January -- its highest reading since June -- from 102.4 points a month earlier.

Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at broker Interactive Investor, said traders were looking beyond negative news to focus on the strong data.

"Markets continue their inexorable New Year rally, unperturbed by such minor inconveniences as a (recent) 12 percent drop in Apple's share price," she said in a note to clients.

"In Japan, markets are encouraged by the government's efforts to push inflation higher via a weaker yen, even though this weak yen will contribute to a deterioration in Japan's trade deficit.

"In Europe, issues such as Spain's 26 percent unemployment rate or the continuing fall in the economic outlook in France are having similarly little effect on equity prices as markets ask 'what could possibly go wrong'?"

O'Keeffe added: "Markets may continue to push higher, but complacency is now at dangerously high levels. Far from pricing in downside risks, markets appear to be ignoring them altogether."

In Asia on Friday, Tokyo's Nikkei surged to close up 2.88 percent at 10,926.65 points, to a near three-year high on the back of a weaker yen, traders said.

The yen resumed its downtrend after a brief rally as Japan's vice finance minister indicated that the country's new hawkish government would step in to stop the currency from returning to record highs against the dollar.

US stocks opened moved higher Friday helped by Procter & Gamble's 3.8 percent gain after it beat quarterly earnings estimates and raised its outlook for 2013.

Positive quarterly reports from Oshkosh (+15.2 percent) and Halliburton (+5.0 percent) also underpinned the fresh rally.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.26 percent to 13,860.73 points after five minutes of trading.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.19 percent to 1,497.60 points, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.31 percent to 3,140.15 points.

burs-rl/jmm

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