European stocks rise on China trade data

European stock markets rose on Thursday, helped by strong Chinese data as traders took in stride decisions by the European Central Bank and Bank of England to hold key interest rates steady.

The euro gained against the dollar as traders also reacted to positive bond sales by indebted eurozone nations Spain and Italy.

In afternoon deals London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies climbed 0.20 percent to 6,110.62 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 index gained 0.52 percent to 7,760.96 points, while the Paris CAC 40 added 0.15 percent to 3,723.00 points.

In foreign exchange trade meanwhile, the European single currency gained to $1.3178 from $1.3061 late in New York on Wednesday. On the London Bullion Market, gold prices increased to $1,663 an ounce from $1,657.75 on Wednesday.

"Market bulls have kept most European equity benchmarks in the green... as a sharp rise in Chinese exports has seemingly overshadowed an underperforming eurozone..., said CMC Markets trader Toby Morris.

Asian equities closed higher after China released better-than-expected trade data that provide further evidence the world's second biggest economy has emerged from a drawn-out slumber, dealers said.

As widely expected, meanwhile, the ECB kept rates at an all-time low of 0.75 percent, despite record high unemployment in the recession-hit 17-nation eurozone.

The BoE also maintained as expected its borrowing costs at a record low of 0.50 percent and left the amount of stimulus measures unchanged.

On sovereign debt markets, tension on Spanish and Italian bonds eased sharply in a further sign that some steam is evaporating from the eurozone debt crisis.

"Spain smashed expectations in a bonds auction, selling above its target range while Italy's bills auction pushed 12-month funding costs to hit the lowest level in three years," said Ishaq Siddiqi, strategist at ETX Capital trading group.

Spain's Treasury raised 5.816 billion euros ($7.617 billion) with bonds of two, six and 13 years maturity, with rates of return demanded by investors falling sharply compared to rates in previous sales.

Italy's Treasury meanwhile raised 8.5 billion euros with short-term paper.

With the borrowing rates falling, the ECB is sitting on the sidelines, said Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics.

"But if the news on the economy remains poor and market concerns over Spain and other peripheral economies resurface (ECB chief Mario) Draghis pledge to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro may soon be tested," he added.

The French central bank on Thursday repeated its estimate that France fell into a mild recession at the end of 2012, putting contraction of the economy at 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

US stocks opened higher Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.29 percent to 13,429.98 points after 25 minutes of trade.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.42 percent to 1,467.13, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.49 percent to 3,121.11.

On the corporate front, shares in Britain's biggest retailer Tesco grew 2.9 percent to 359.45 pence after the supermarket chain said its sales rose at the fastest pace for three years during the Christmas and New Year trading period.

Tesco, which has struggled in recent times both in its main market Britain and abroad, said sales at its British stores open more than 12 months rose 1.8 percent in the six weeks to January 5 compared with sales in the equivalent period one year earlier.

On the downside, shares in Marks & Spencer slumped 2.1 percent to 363.20 pence after the British food-to-clothing retailer said late Wednesday that its clothing sales had slumped over the Christmas period.

In Frankfurt, shares in BMW added 2.1 percent to 73.70 euros after the German top-of-the-range carmaker said it had achieved a sales record in 2012.

burs-rl/wai

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