World Stocks Up on Upbeat US Economy

HONG KONG (AP) -- Global stock benchmarks were mostly higher Thursday after an upbeat U.S. economic report helped ease persistent investor concerns over Brexit-related global turmoil.

KEEPING SCORE: European shares posted strong early gains, with France's CAC 40 up 1.7 percent to 4,153.12 and Germany's DAX climbing 1.1 percent to 9,477.43. Britain's FTSE 100 added 1.5 percent to 6,562.85. U.S. stocks were poised for a quiet open, with Dow futures edging up less than 0.1 percent to 17,841.00 and broader S&P 500 futures dipping less than 0.1 percent to 2,093.70.

U.S. DATA: Activity at services companies grew last month at the fastest pace since November, in a sign of good health for the U.S. economy, the world's biggest. Production, new orders and export orders all expanded at a faster pace in June while employment rose after shrinking in May, according to the report by the Institute of Supply Management. Investors will now be awaiting a U.S. payrolls report due Friday.

FED MINUTES: The outlook for another U.S. interest rate hiked dimmed further after the release of minutes from the U.S. central bank's most recent meeting. Policymakers indicated they thought it would be wise to delay a hike until more data showed whether May's anemic U.S. hiring report was a blip or the start of a trend. Officials also worried about the outcome of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, which had not yet been held when they met June 14-15.

THE QUOTE: "There was very little to take from the Fed minutes and the Brexit was an excuse (for policymakers) to sit on their hands," Gavin Parry, managing director of Parry International Trading, said in a note to clients. "The U.S. economy is still fairly lackluster and while inflation is benign we still hold fast on our call that it's hard to see a hike this year."

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.7 percent to 15,276.24 as shares of the country's export giants were hit by the rising yen as investors looking for safety flocked to the currency. South Korea's Kospi climbed 1.1 percent to 1,974.08 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1 percent to 20,706.92. The Shanghai Composite Index was practically unchanged at 3,016.85 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.6 percent to 5,227.90.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened slightly to 100.98 yen from 101.00 yen in late trading Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.1079 from $1.1098. The Australian dollar rebounded after falling as much as half a cent in early trading to $0.7467 after rating agency Standard & Poor's cut its outlook for the country's sovereign credit rating to negative from stable because of the government's weakening financial position.

ENERGY: Oil prices extended gains, with benchmark U.S. crude futures rising 64 cents to $48.07 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed up 83 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $47.43 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 64 cents to $49.44 a barrel in London.

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