World Stocks, Dollar Higher

HONG KONG (AP) -- Most world stock markets posted modest gains Thursday as healthy U.S. and European economic reports bolstered investor optimism while the dollar strengthened and oil hovered near a three-month high.

KEEPING SCORE: European stock benchmarks were mostly higher in early trading. France's CAC 40 rose 0.2 percent to 4,496.90 and Germany's DAX edged up 0.1 percent to 10,597.05. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.2 percent to 7,020.23. U.S. stocks were poised to open slightly higher. Dow futures were up 0.1 percent to 18,211.00 and broader S&P 500 futures crept up less than 0.1 percent to 2,153.80.

SERVICE SECTOR: Activity at U.S. service companies expanded in September at the fastest pace in nearly a year, according to a private report. The Institute for Supply Management's services index jumped to 57.1 last month, its highest since October last year, adding to evidence that the world's biggest economy is strengthening and raising expectations the Federal Reserve will soon raise rates from ultralow levels. The services report and a similar manufacturing index earlier this week were both surprisingly strong after weak readings the month before.

MARKET VIEW: The weakness in the August service and factory indexes "does now look to have been only been a temporary blip," said Angus Nicholson of IG Markets in Melbourne. "The path to a December rate rise from the Fed is looking increasingly comfortable."

GERMAN FACTORIES: Manufacturing orders rose strongly in August, according to Germany's economy ministry, which cited strong demand from both domestic customers and those in other countries using the euro currency. The report said industrial orders rose a seasonally adjusted 1 percent over July numbers, offering some hope for the country's beleaguered manufacturing industry.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.5 percent to close at 16,899.10 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6 percent to 2,065.30. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.7 percent to 23,952.50 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.6 percent to 5,483.00. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand also rose. Markets in mainland China were closed for a weeklong holiday.

ENERGY: Oil prices eased after rising to their highest level since June. U.S. benchmark crude oil futures shed 28 cents to $49.55 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.14, or 2.3 percent, to settle at $49.83 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 16 cents to $51.70 a barrel in London

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 103.61 yen, its highest level in a month, from 103.50 yen in late trading Thursday, fueled by the Fed rate cut outlook. The euro slipped to $1.1190 from $1.1210.

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