Stock markets rise on hopes of Fed easing

Stock markets from Asia to Europe are higher, anticipating that the Federal Reserve will try to boost the struggling US economy.

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    Investors chat in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai Oct. 11. China's key stock index closed up 2.5 percent, its biggest two-day surge in more than 12 months. It was one of several world stock markets that surged Monday on expectations of another flood of liquidity from the Federal Reserve.
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Global stock markets rose Monday amid ongoing expectations that the Federal Reserve will decide to pump more money into the U.S. economy next month.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 14.31 points, or 0.3 percent, at 5,671.92 while Germany's DAX rose 13.30 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,304.97. The CAC-40 in France was 4.39 points, or 0.1 percent, higher at 3,767.57.

Wall Street was poised to open modestly higher too but trading volumes are expected to be extremely light as the Columbus Day holiday is likely to prompt a number of investors to stay away — though stock markets in the U.S. are open, bond markets will be closed.

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Dow futures were up 21 points, or 0.2 percent, at 10,968 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures rose 2.9 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,163.50.

The Dow closed above 11,000 last Friday for the first time since early May as a soft U.S. jobs report for September reinforced market expectations that the Fed may announce further stimulus measures at the conclusion of its next rate-setting meeting on November 3.

The payrolls figures showed that the U.S. economy is not generating enough private sector jobs to get the unemployment rate substantially down from its current level of 9.6 percent.

It's now thought to be a near certainty that the Fed will announce its second round of so-called quantitative easing, which would involve the purchase of financial assets from the banks in an attempt to further drive down rates on mortgages, corporate loans and other debt in the ultimate hope of boosting economic activity and supporting prices.

"Equity markets are starting the new week in an upbeat mood after Friday's disappointing employment data added weight to calls for a fresh round of quantitative easing from the Fed," said Chris Weston, research analyst at IG Markets.

Though the financial markets have largely discounted the prospect of further asset purchases from the Fed, there are still question marks hanging over the scale and shape of any such measures. In that context, a run of speeches this week from Fed officials, culminating with chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday will be closely monitored by the markets.

Though the prospect of more dollars in the financial system has been a boon to stocks lately, the dollar has suffered — last week, the euro pushed back above $1.40 for the first time in eight months while the dollar sank below the level that had prompted the Bank of Japan to intervene in the markets last month to rein in the export-sapping appreciation of the yen.

By early afternoon London time, the euro was 0.5 percent lower on the day at $1.3931 while the dollar was 0.3 percent higher at 81.97 yen.

The weekend meetings of the International Monetary Fund and Group of 20 finance ministers in Washington failed to yield anything new on the currencies front despite ongoing worries that many countries are using their currencies as a weapon in an attempt to garner growth by making their exports more competitive in the international marketplace.

The biggest battle appears to be between the U.S. and China, which keeps its currency artificially low against the dollar in order to boost exports.

Simon Derrick, senior currency strategist at Bank of New York Mellon, said the dollar is likely to retain its weak tone over coming days given the decreasing likelihood of a "meaningful detente" being reached between the two sides.

"As a result, heightened dollar weakness, increased capital flows into emerging markets, increased intervention — possibly from Japan as well — and diversification will be the order of the day," said Derrick.

Earlier in Asia, Chinese stocks extended their post-holiday gains in robust trading, amid expectations that global inflation will boost resource prices. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 68.20 points, or 2.5 percent, to 2,806.94. The Shenzhen Composite Index for China's smaller, second exchange rose 0.9 percent to 1,212.14.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed 1.2 percent higher at 23,207.31, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to close at 4,697.50, the index's highest close since May 5.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was up 17 cents to $82.83 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Associated Press Writer Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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