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Europe: Stock markets end higher with eyes on US, Greece

[LONDON] Europe's main stock markets closed higher Wednesday, with all eyes on US economic data and prospects of an interest rate hike in the world's biggest economy.

Investors also reacted to developments over Greece and China, analysts said.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index ended the day 0.98 per cent higher at 6,7432.94 points compared with Tuesday's close.

Eurozone indices performed better, with Frankfurt's DAX 30 finishing 1.57 per cent ahead at 11,636,30 points, while the CAC 40 in Paris closed up 1.65 per cent at 5,196.73 The euro fell to US$1.0867 from US$1.0882 late in New York on Tuesday.

Greece's main stock index ended the day 2.53 per cent down, with banking shares taking a battering for a third day running.

Trading resumed in Athens on Monday, five weeks after the government imposed capital controls to prevent a bank run and stave off financial collapse at the height of its standoff with EU-IMF creditors over a new bailout.

The ATHEX index had finished Tuesday down 1.22 per cent after suffering its steepest ever fall of 16.32 per cent on Monday.

The Greek government and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker have meanwhile expressed hope that debt-crippled Greece and its creditors will reach a deal on a new rescue package in time for August 20, when Athens is due to pay the European Central Bank 3.4 billion euros (S$5.1 billion).

"All the reports I am getting suggest an accord this month, preferably before the 20th," Mr Juncker told AFP in an interview on Wednesday.

Later in the day, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Athens had entered "the final stretch to conclude an agreement with the institutions" for a new bailout.

Asian markets were mixed Wednesday, buoyed by a possible US interest rate hike even as China's ability to stem a recent market rout weighed on sentiment.

The dollar advanced against other major currencies after Fed Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart told The Wall Street Journal in comments published this week that he supports lifting rates in September barring an unexpected downturn in the world's top economy.

"The US dollar has continued to strengthen... following more hawkish rhetoric from a Fed official which has resulted in the market discounting a higher probability of a rate hike in September," said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

US stocks were trading mostly higher Wednesday after three straight down days, despite a report showing disappointing private sector jobs growth and a sharp fall in shares of Dow member Disney.

In midday trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 17,636.61 points, up 0.49 per cent.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 1.33 per cent to 5,173.26 points, while the broad-based S&P 500 lost early gains to trade 0.22 per cent lower at 2,093.32.

Payroll firm ADP said the US private sector sharply curbed the pace of job growth in July, in a worse-than-expected report two days ahead of official jobs data.

Connor Campbell, a Spreadex analyst in London, said despite contrasting data coming from the United States, early gains on Wall Street had "helped lift the DAX and CAC even higher, surging to a two-week high.

Mr Campbell noted that the private sector job growth figure was 31,000 off the expected 185,000.

"The US trade balance figure widened unexpectedly, losing whatever goodwill it would have gained from the upward revision for June," he added, noting however that sharp growth in the service sector in July had "smashed expectations".

AFP