Stocks Follow European Markets Higher

Stocks Follow European Markets Higher

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stock indexes inched ahead Thursday and followed in the wake of European markets, which rose on relief after results from a Dutch election eased concerns about the strength of the European Union.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,387 as of 9:52 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,990. The Nasdaq composite rose 8, or 0.1 percent, to 5,908. Nearly two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

EUROPEAN OPTIMISM: Stock markets across the Atlantic had bigger gains, with the French FAC 40 up 0.5 percent and Germany's DAX up 0.5 percent. The U.K. FTSE 100 up 0.6 percent. Investors had been nervous about Wednesday's Dutch election, where politicians had railed against the European Union and immigration. After the U.K. vote to exit the European Union, investors wondered whether the Dutch election and others scheduled later in the year on the continent could lead the European Union to break apart.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party won a parliamentary election victory over anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders. Wilders campaigned on pledges to close borders to migrants from Muslim nations, close mosques, ban the Quran and take the Netherlands out of the EU.

BOND YIELDS: U.S. Treasury yields recovered some of their losses from the prior day. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.53 percent from 2.50 percent. It had plunged by 0.11 percentage points the prior day, after the Federal Reserve dashed speculation that it may become more aggressive in raising rates.

The central bank increased short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point but said that it continues to expect to raise rates a total of three times this year.

SOME CENTRAL BANKS FOLLOW: China's central bank raised a short-term interest rate on lending to banks but left its benchmark rate unchanged following the U.S. increase. The People's Bank of China hiked the rate for its six-month and one-year medium-term lending facility and open-market repurchase operations by 0.1 percent. The benchmark one-year commercial lending rate was unchanged. The bank cited the U.S. Federal Reserve's Wednesday rate hike and improved Chinese economic conditions.

Hong Kong's central bank copied the Fed by raising its benchmark lending rate by one-quarter point to 1.25 percent. The Hong Kong currency is pegged to the dollar, which means the Hong Kong Monetary Authority copies U.S. monetary policy.

OTHERS STAND PAT: Japan's central bank held monetary policy steady as the Fed and Europe's central bank move toward tightening. The Bank of Japan left its benchmark lending rate unchanged at minus 0.1 percent and said it would work toward a 2 percent inflation rate target. The central bank is buying about 80 trillion yen ($700 billion) a year of Japanese government bonds to inject cash into the economy. The BOJ said the world's third-largest economy was on a "moderate recovery trend."

The Bank of England held its interest rates at record lows.

ASIA'S DAY: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.1 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 2.1 percent and Seoul's Kospi rose 0.8 percent. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 5,785.80.

COMMODITES: Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 5 cents to $48.81 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 8 cents to $51.73. Gold rose $276 to $1,227.70 per ounce, silver rose 47 cents to $17.39 per ounce and copper rose 2 cents to $2.68 per pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 113.37 Japanese yen from 113.39 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.0730 from $1.0713, and the British pound rose to $1.2346 from $1.2301.

(KA)