European Stocks Up In Light Post-holiday Trade

Published January 2, 2012 11:36AM (EST)

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Global stock markets opened a risk-filled New Year still hung over from a rough 2011, with little direction to trading and many exchanges closed.

Germany's DAX, which fell 14.7 percent last year, rose 1.4 percent Monday to 5981.79, while the French CAC-40, which ended 2011 17 percent lower, climbed 0.6 percent to 3,179.17. Stocks fell in South Korea and closed flat in Taiwan.

Trading was light with the New York, London and most Asian stock exchanges closed.

Germany steelmaker ThyssenKrupp led German shares higher with a gain of 3.9 percent and insurer Allianz SE rose 3.1 percent.

Many of the world's leading indexes are coming off a down year. Britain's FTSE was off 5.6 percent by year end, Japan's Nikkei fell 17 percent to its lowest close since 1982, and the Standard & Poor's 500 showed zero gain.

Data releases later in the week such as eurozone inflation on Wednesday and German factory orders and U.S. non-farm payrolls on Friday will give traders more grist.

For the moment, there was little to propel markets ahead of new market data later in the week, as well as major hurdles for eurozone leaders to surmount in the first few weeks of the year in their attempt to get control of the shared currency zone's government debt woes that threaten to harm the global economy with another financial meltdown.

Much of the attention in coming weeks will center on Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy and the focal point of the eurozone's struggle to deal with a crisis caused by heavy levels of government debt. Fears of default on those debts mean that bond investors demand ever-higher interest, making it a challenge for the new government of Prime Minister Mario Monti to roll over euro53 billion ($69 billion) in debt maturing in the first quarter. If a country can no longer borrow affordably to pay off bonds that are maturing, it faces eventual default or a bailout.

Debt woes may be compounded by at least a mild recession over the last quarter of 2011 and the first part of 2012.

A survey of European purchasing managers sounded a downbeat note about the economy, showing activity in the manufacturing sector contracting for a fifth straight month in December. The manufacturing PMIs indicate that eurozone industry are "finding life extremely challenging," said Howard Archer at IHT Global Insight, which predicts a 0.4 percent shrinkage in the eurozone economy when fourth quarter figures come out next month.

In Asia, South Korea's Kospi, which lost 11 percent of its value last year, closed nearly unchanged at 1,826.37. South Korea's tech sector move higher, with Samsung Electronics up 2.1 percent and LG Electronics gaining 2.3 percent. Steel giant POSCO slid 1.1 percent and Korea Electric Power shed 1.8 percent.

Taiwan's TAIEX, which was also open for business Monday, fell 1.7 percent to 6,952.21. Foxconn Technology, the world's biggest contract electronics manufacturer, which makes iPads and iPhones for Apple Inc., fell 0.9 percent. Personal computer maker Acer Inc. shed 2.3 percent.

The Asian-Pacific region's major benchmarks, including Japan's Nikkei 225 index, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index and Australia's S&P ASX 200, were closed.

Last year was one that traders would prefer to forget: most Asian equity indexes closed out 2011 deeply in the red. The Nikkei in Tokyo ended the year at 8,429.45 — its lowest closing since 1982.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, closed Monday, endured a 21 percent loss for the year as the impact of Beijing's multibillion-dollar stimulus faded and the government tightened curbs on lending and investment to cool blistering economic growth.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished at 18,434.39 — a precipitous slide of 19.7 percent from a year ago. Singapore's Straits Times Index took a 17.5 percent dive when it closed at 2,646.35 on Friday.

Australia's benchmark S&P ASX 200 ended the year at 4,140.4 — 14.5 percent lower for 2011.


AP Business Writer Pamela Sampson contributed to this report from Bangkok.

By Salon Staff

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