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Equity investors remained on edge because of European debt problems, even as talk spread that China might help bail out Portugal.

U.S. stock futures were little changed, with Dow and S&P 500 futures up less than 0.2 per cent and Nasdaq futures flat.

The euro hit its highest level in a week after the Financial Times quoted the head of the European Financial Stability Facility as saying China and other Asian investors were expected to buy a "strong proportion" of Portuguese bailout bonds when the euro zone's rescue fund starts auctioning them next month.

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Still, uncertainty over whether Greece would need to restructure its debt and undertake new austerity measures tempered gains in equities. Germany's DAX dipped 0.3 per cent to 7,151. The CAC-40 in France was 0.1 per cent higher at 3,934 while the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.4 per cent to 5,896.

Greek two-year yields rose 43 basis points to 26.9 per cent, but the premium investors demand to hold Spanish and Italian government bonds rather than benchmark German Bunds fell after the FT report on China. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Greece may need more time to get its house in order - an indication that Greece will get the next tranche of its rescue loans and possibly a second bailout.

Asian stocks rose 1.7 percent. The MSCI world equity index rose 0.5 percent, bringing its gains this year to 3 percent. The FTSEurofirst 300 index added 0.5 percent, led by banks and mining shares. Emerging stocks gained 1.2 percent.

The U.S. dollar fell half a percent against a basket of major currencies. The euro rose 0.7 percent to $1.4181 (U.S.). The loonie was little changed at $1.0228 (U.S.).

U.S. crude oil fell 0.3 percent to $101.01 a barrel, erasing earlier gains.

Gold eased after a sharp sell-off in the silver market. Spot silver fell to $36.30 an ounce before recovering to trade down 2 percent at $37.12, while spot gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,520.89 an ounce, after hitting $1,532.00 on Wednesday, its strongest since May 4.

The Baltic Dry Index, which tracks rates to ship dry commodities, rose to its highest level in seven weeks.

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Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 1.5 per cent higher at 9,562.05, boosted by the news that Canon Inc. would spend as much as 50-billion yen ($183-million) buying back up to 1.2 per cent of its shares.

South Korea's Kospi surged 2.8 per cent to end at 2,091.91 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.6 per cent to finish at 4,660.20. Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended 0.7 per cent higher at 22,900.79.

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