Markets closed up in Asia on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei climbed 0.60 percent to 13,926.10, its highest close since June 2008. The yen strengthened slightly to trade at 99.1300 to the dollar. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng climbed 0.98 percent to 22,401.20, and in Australia the S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.72 percent to 5,102.43.
Markets were also higher in Europe in mid-day trading. Germany’s DAX climbed 0.64 percent to 7,808.39, London’s FTSE climbed 0.11 percent to 6,439.11, while the STOXX 50 index edged up 0.08 percent to 2,704.31.
U.S. futures at 8:50 a.m.: DJIA: +0.37%, S&P 500: +0.48%, NASDAQ: +0.67%.
Here are three stories to keep an eye on:
1) The United Kingdom Dodges a Triple-Dip Recession: It’s the type of news that is good simply because it is not bad. Provisional data released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics show that the nation’s gross domestic product increased 0.3 percent on the quarter and increased 0.6 percent on the year. Consensus estimates were expecting no movement on the quarter and just 0.3 percent growth on the year. The underlying concern, of course, was that GDP would actually contract, throwing the nation into a third recession.
Services, which account for 77 percent of the GDP in the UK, led the charge higher, with 0.6 percent gains on the quarter and 1.5 percent gains on the year. Losses were led by the construction, which contracted 2.5 percent on the quarter and 5.9 percent on the year…
2) Unemployment in Spain Hits a Record High: Severe austerity measures in Spain, still the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, have helped push unemployment up to a record 27.2 percent. The total number of unemployed totaled 6.2 million in the first quarter, a figure that has been on the rise for seven consecutive periods. The figures are worse than expected, and have provided fodder for a growing camp of economists who suggest that austerity measures may have ultimately done more harm than good.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that his government would be seeking a new reform plan that could include even more austerity measures. In the meantime, protests have become commonplace across the country.
3) The U.S. Mint Halts American Gold Eagle Sales: It has been a rough month for gold to say the least. Gold’s winning-streak of annual gains appears to be in jeopardy for the first time in twelve years. Over the course of only two days in April, gold plunged $200 to reach its lowest level since February 2011. In the process, it logged its worst one-day percentage drop since 1980, and the largest fall in dollar terms on record. On a technical basis, gold reached its most oversold reading since at least 1975. However, buyers are seeing the weakness as a buying opportunity.