Europe Stocks Finish Higher

The Nikkei and Hang Seng indexes also post gains

European stock markets finished higher Wednesday.

London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index finished up 27.9 points, or 0.63%, at 4,456.80. The Labour government has wrapped up the presentation of its budget and tax plans for the coming year. The U.K. February unemployment fell by 6,600 to 885,200, while the jobless rate stood at 2.9%. Meanwhile, wage growth was strong, with average earnings up -- the highest since September 2001, but the rise was largely due to bonuses, reports Informa.

Separately, the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee minutes showed a 9-0 vote for steady interest rate policy in March, "but indicated they looking to tighten credit in near future," reports Standard & Poor's MarketScope. Retailer Kingfisher was lower as UBS cut its rating on the stock to neutral from buy. Reuters was also higher.

Germany's DAX index rose 74.42 points, or 1.95%, to finish at 3,896.79, boosted by strength on Wall Street. Traders said the markets were driven by an improved outlook for the global economy and the prospect of a long period of low interest rates in the U.S. signalled by the Federal Reserve on Tuesday. BASF stock rose after the company, which had a quarterly loss, forecast moderate growth for the year. BMW was also higher, saying it expects strong earnings this year.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index rose 68 points, or 1.9%, to 3,656.04, boosted by upbeat trading in the U.S. where better-than-expected earnings cheer investors. However, trading is set to remain volatile on both sides of the Atlantic ahead of 'quadruple witching' on Friday. There was little reaction to a report showing that France had a current account deficit in January. Shares of Areva, Casino, and Jet Multimedia were higher.

Asian markets finished higher on Wednesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index added 194.57 points, or 1.73%, to 11,436.86, as the central bank said faster-than-expected consumer spending is helping the Japanese economy, reports Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 43.1 points, or 0.33%, to 12,975.72. Stocks regained some strength on Wednesday on bargain hunting, but investment appetite was still suppressed by growing concerns of global terrorist threats.

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