By Pan Pylas, The Associated Press
LONDON - Japanese stocks outperformed all others Tuesday as traders in the country returned from a public holiday in buoyant mood, sending the Nikkei index above 14,000 for the first time in nearly five years.
The Nikkei surged 3.6 per cent to 14,180.24 on its first day of trading following the Golden Week holiday — that's the first time the Nikkei has breached the 14,000 mark since June 2008.
Japanese stocks have been marked up heavily this year after the Bank of Japan announced a new aggressive monetary policy to get the country out of its near two-decade stagnation. One repercussion of the plan to pump huge amounts of yen into the Japanese economy has been to sharply weaken the currency. A lower yen potentially boosts economic growth by making the country's exports cheaper in international markets.
Elsewhere, investors remained largely positive amid a dearth of scheduled economic and corporate news, as they continued to draw encouragement from Friday's better than anticipated U.S. payrolls figures. The data often set the market tone for a week or two after their release.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares as up 0.3 per cent at 6,540 while Germany's DAX rose 0.6 per cent to 8,164. The CAC-40 in France was 0.4 per cent higher at 3,921.
Wall Street was poised for a steady opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 per cent. Both indexes have touched record highs in recent days.
"Wall Street may be eyeing a relatively unchanged start to Tuesday, but there's no denying the current levels remain bullish and the fact the S&P is holding above 1,600 is certainly worthy of note," said Fawad Razaqzada, market strategist at GFT Markets.
The dollar was also fairly steady after gaining in the wake of the payrolls data. The euro was flat at $1.3075 while the dollar was 0.2 per cent lower at 99.19 yen.
Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6 per cent to 23,047.09, while South Korea's Kospi fell 0.4 per cent to 1,954.49 . Mainland Chinese shares were higher. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.2 per cent to 2,235.58 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index added 0.1 per cent to 955.33.
Australia was in focus after the Reserve Bank of Australia lowered its official interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 2.75 per cent amid some signs the economy is coming off the boil as the Australian dollar rises. Following the reduction, the Aussie dollar fell 0.9 per cent to $1.0169. However, the S&P/ASX 200 stock index fell 0.2 per cent to 5,143.70.
Oil prices drifted lower after a strong run, with the benchmark New York rate down 63 cents at $95.53 a barrel.