Stocks gain on Europe stimulus talk, China data

Hopes for fresh stimulus from the European Central Bank and China's steady growth bolstered global stocks Wednesday after the S&P 500 had its best day of the year.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent at 8,916.97 while France's CAC 40 was up the same rate at 4,091.64. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent to 6,384.89. Futures pointed to a lackluster open on Wall Street. Dow futures were flat while S&P 500 futures fell 0.1 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Earlier, Asian stocks had jumped, enjoying momentum from global markets the previous day. Japan's Nikkei 225 soared 2.6 percent to 15,195.77 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.4 percent to 23,403.97. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.1 percent to 5,385.90. In Europe

EUROPE STIMULUS: As the region teeters on the brink of recession again, speculation is growing that the European Central Bank will further expand liquidity in the financial system by expanding bond purchases. Analysts say the ECB is suspected of already buying Italian covered bonds and might be planning to expand that to other nations. "Considering the weakness in Europe, the prospect of an increase (in bond purchases) is real as it looks to increase access to financing, and even more stimulus," said IG strategist Evan Lucas.

CHINA FACTOR: China's third quarter growth of 7.3 percent, announced Tuesday, was reassuring for investors who were expecting a sharper slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy. The figure suggests China won't reach its official 7.5 percent growth target this year but nor is the economy in a tailspin even as measures to cool an overheated property market ripple through the broader economy.

US DATA: Inflation figures in the U.S. showed consumer prices rose 1.7 percent in the year to September, below the 2 percent target set by the Federal Reserve. The figures suggest the central bank will not come under any further pressure to raise interests ahead of time. Benign inflation has allowed the Fed bank to keep rates at record lows to help the economy.

ENERGY: Oil prices were up somewhat after weeks of declines. The benchmark U.S. crude contract was up 55 cents at $83.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.2669 from $1.2713 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 107.15 yen from 106.98 yen.

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