LONDON (AP) — Solid manufacturing surveys from around the world helped boost markets on Wednesday as attention turned towards the state of the U.S. economy in the run-up to a crucial jobs report.
With figures showing that China's manufacturing sector is growing solidly and Europe's performing better than forecast, investors are hopeful that equivalent U.S. figures later will show the recovery in the world's largest economy gaining steam.
As a result, investors will be focusing on monthly hiring figures from private payrolls agency ADP, as they assess their current predictions for Friday's official nonfarm payrolls data. The most closely-watched indicator of growth in the U.S., the government figures often set the market tone for a week or two after their release. The expectation is currently that the U.S. created another 180,000 jobs in January.
"Last month the ADP figure caught everyone out, smashing through expectations," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG Index. "Today's forecast is for a gain of 185,000, and this will need to be met if today's rally is not to prove as short-lived as yesterday's.".
Ahead of the ADP survey, which will be released an hour before the bell on Wall Street, investors were optimistic.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 1.3 percent at 5,755 while Germany's DAX rose 2 percent to 6,585. The CAC-40 in France was 1.6 percent higher at 3,350.
Wall Street futures also pointed firmly higher — Dow futures were up 0.7 percent at 12,669 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures rose by the same rate to 1,318.
The focus on the U.S. will prove a welcome diversion for some traders from monitoring the daily developments in Europe's debt crisis.
There are signs that the crisis has eased, for now. EU leaders agreed this week to push ahead with a closer fiscal union and borrowing rates for Italy and Spain are down sharply from just a couple of months ago, suggesting increased investor confidence.
Much hinges on Greece, where the outlook also appeared brighter. Hopes were growing that a debt-reduction deal between the country and its private creditors will be concluded soon alongside a second bailout from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.
"We still await news from the Greek debt restructuring talks although the few comments that have been made over the last 48 hours have suggested that progress is being made," said Gary Jenkins, managing director at Swordfish Research.
The sense of an easing in Europe's debt woes helped stocks enjoy a stellar start to the year, with many markets recovering a large chunk of their late-2011 losses. Overall, U.S. shares had their best start in 15 years.
The improving backdrop has helped shore up the euro, too, which was trading 0.3 percent higher at $1.3120.
Earlier in Asia, stock markets lacked the same momentum seen in Europe.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 edged up less than 0.1 percent to close at 8,809.79 but Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended down 0.3 percent to 20,333.37. Mainland China's main index in Shanghai also fell 1.2 percent to 2,268.08.
The improved mood over the global economy helped oil prices track higher — benchmark oil for March delivery gained 76 cents to $99.24 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.