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Markets higher on good news from Europe, Japan

AMSTERDAM (AP) -- Positive economic news from Germany and promises of more monetary easing in Japan helped stock indexes in those countries lead most markets around the world higher Friday.

U.S. stocks rose in early trading, helped by a strong quarterly earnings report from Procter & Gamble.

In Japan, stocks were galvanized by a further drop in the value of the yen, which is expected to help big exporters like Sony. The Nikkei index surged 2.9 percent to 10,926.67, its highest close since April 30, 2010.

In Germany, business sentiment as measured by the Ifo index rose to its highest level since June, as executives said order backlogs are rising.

The Ifo report “nicely illustrates the green shoots in the German economy,” said ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski in Brussels.

“Even if the current harsh winter weather might delay the blossoming somewhat, growth should return, leaving the contraction of the fourth quarter quickly behind.”

Additional good news came from the European Central Bank, which said that banks were expected to pay back emergency loans at a faster-than-expected clip, implying that the outlook is improving or the likelihood of disaster scenarios is receding. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, ECB President Mario Draghi repeated the continent's economy appears to be stabilizing and he expects recovery later this year.

Germany's DAX rose 1.5 percent to 7,861.40 points, the strongest performer in Europe. France's CAC-40 was up 0.7 percent to3,777.68.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent, to 6,281.23, after official figures showed the U.K. economy contracted 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter. The drop was worse than expected and shows the economy is struggling to make any lasting recovery.

Meanwhile, Wall Street booked early gains as Procter & Gamble said its quarterly profit doubled in the October-December period and it raised its 2013 forecasts.

The Dow Jones industrial index was 0.3 percent higher at 13,865.94, while the broader S&P 500 gained 0.5 percent to 11,502.16.

The weaker yen is bad for U.S. exporters, but the effect of that was offset somewhat by a rise in the euro, which was up 0.6 percent to $1.3460.

The yen's drop was unambiguously bad for other Asian economies, as their own goods lose appeal to U.S. consumers.

South Korea's Kospi fell 1 percent to 1,943.97. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.1 percent to 23,580.43.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5 percent to 2,291.30 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.2 percent at 909.52.

In Australia, the outlier, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5 percent to 4,835.20.

Benchmark oil for March delivery gave back earlier gains but was still up 12 cents to $96.07 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


Follow Toby Sterling on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lbsterling

Pamela Sampson contributed to this story from Bangkok.

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