Global markets were mixed overnight with losses in Europe countered by gains in the US.
The UK’s FTSE gained 21 points (+0.4%) to settle at 5938, but the French CAC (flat) and German DAX (-0.5%) didn’t fare so well.
European shares were mostly weaker after negative growth forecasts for the eurozone and poor results from some of the region´s lenders added to investor caution.
The European Commission forecast that economic output will contract by 0.3% this year, reversing an earlier forecast of 0.5% growth for 2012.
Stateside, the Dow Jones gained 46 points (+0.4%) to settle at 12985 whilst the S&P 500 added 0.4% and the Nasdaq jumped 0.8%.
The ongoing improvement in the US labour market supported stocks. US jobless claims held steady at 351,000 last week – marking the lowest reading since March 2008. The number of people receiving benefits after drawing an initial week of aid fell by 52,000 to 3.39 million.
The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index rose from 7 to 13 in February- suggesting an ongoing expansion. The survey included responses from 109 manufacturing plants in the region. US home prices rose 0.7% in December.
According to Thompson Reuters of the 446 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings 63% topped analyst estimates.
The Aussie dollar firmed a touch overnight and is buying approximately US$1.675 this morning, whilst the euro advanced to the strongest level in more than 10 weeks against the greenback after a report showed German business confidence rose to the highest level in seven months.
Oil gained another US$1.36 to US$107.86 a barrel whilst base metal prices were mixed. Tin and lead recorded small gains whilst the others lost ground.
Gold rose in a choppy session, adding 0.5% to US$1781 an ounce.
In company news, NRW Holdings has more than doubled half year net profit to $45.3 million. An interim dividend of 8 cents was declared.
Today AGL Energy, Crown and Air New Zealand are amongst the other companies reporting results. Santos goes ex dividend 15c.