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World stocks gain on US growth prospects

World stock markets mostly higher, spurred by expectations of faster US growth

World stocks gain on US growth prospects

World stock markets mostly rose Wednesday, spurred by expectations of faster U.S. economic growth.

In Asia, the biggest gainers were Japan and Hong Kong. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 1.9 percent, closing at 16,121.45 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.3 percent to 22,996.59. Benchmarks in India, Southeast Asia and Taiwan also rose. China's Shanghai Composite lost early gains, closing 0.2 percent lower at 2,044.34.

In early European trading, France's CAC-40 was up 0.2 percent at 4,268.88. Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.3 percent at 6,736.10 while Germany's DAX was 0.1 percent lower at 9,496.88.

Futures in New York pointed to positive opening on Wall Street. Dow Jones futures were up 0.1 percent at 16,471 while S&P 500 futures were up 0.1 percent at 1,831.80

A decline in the U.S. trade deficit for November, which was partly due to increased domestic oil production, has raised expectations that fourth quarter economic growth will be higher than 3 percent.

"The markets are rising today because of better economic figures in the US," said Francis Lun, economist at GE Oriental Financial Group in Hong Kong.

Investors were also encouraged by the easy passage in a Senate vote late Monday of Janet Yellen's nomination to take the helm at the Federal Reserve. The vote puts an economist in the post who has backed the Fed's recent efforts to stimulate the economy with low interest rates and huge bond purchases.

More insight into the Fed's thinking are expected when minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting are released Wednesday. The Fed announced after that meeting it would begin winding down is $85 billion of monthly bond purchases. That stimulus was a major support for last year's rally in stocks.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 20 cents at $93.87 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 24 cents to $93.67 a barrel on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3609 from $1.3615 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 105.03 yen from 104.69 yen.