European shares rise on upbeat data, US markets slip as fears over economy persist

LONDON (AP) — European rose Thursday, helped by strong German data and an improvement in U.S. jobs figures. But fears of a slowdown in the world's largest economy continued to stalk investors, and US stocks eased.

The tentative rise snapped a lengthy losing streak, but investors remain cautious ahead of more economic indicators from the U.S. on Friday. Recent figures have pointed to the global economy slowing in the second half of the year and markets are now looking for signs of how deep the downturn will be.

Britain's FTSE 100 stock average closed up 0.9 percent at 5,155.84, while Germany's DAX was 0.2 percent higher at 5,912.58. France's CAC-40 was up 0.7 percent at 3,475.03.

Wall Street opened higher after official reports showed claims for unemployment benefits fell to 473,000 last week, below analyst expectations for a dip to 490,000.

But the figures gave only a temporary boost to investors, who are fretting about the strength of the U.S. recovery. Other recent U.S. indicators have surprised on the downside.

In midday trading New York time, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.2 percent at 10,039.70 and the Standard & Poor's 500 was off 0.1 percent at 1,053.96.

The day before, investors in the U.S. were rattled by yet another batch of worrying economic figures — new home sales fell to a record low and durable goods orders were anemic.

That further fueled fears that the economic recovery is losing steam. Buying interest picked up only steadily after that as traders hunted for beaten-down stocks.

Other key data due out this week include revised gross domestic product on Friday, which will provide the latest snapshot of the world's largest economy. Also watched will be a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at the annual Jackson Hole Economic Symposium in Wyoming.

Economists predict that the U.S. economy expanded during the three months from April through June at an annual rate of 2 percent, a slower pace than originally reported.

In Europe, gains were helped by another strong economic report from Germany. The GfK institute said its forward-looking indicator for consumer confidence edged up to 4.1 points for September from the 4.0 points it registered in August.

That followed a rise in German business confidence the day before and shows Europe's largest economy is still enjoying relatively low unemployment and a recovery in demand. Still, analysts note that the country has yet to implement its toughest austerity cuts and may yet feel the pinch of a drop in demand from big trading partners such as the U.S. and China.

Corporate news was also relatively good in Europe. Diageo PLC, the world's biggest spirits maker, said full-year profits rose 1.5 percent as sales in emerging markets fueled a rebound from a weak first half. Investors, however, had been expecting somewhat stronger results and let the shares slip 1.5 percent in London.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 advanced 0.7 percent to 8,906.48 after hitting a 16-month closing low the previous day, after the yen hit a fresh 15-year high against the dollar.

China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.3 percent to 2,603.48, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.8 percent to 4,356.00 and India's Sensex was 0.3 percent higher at 18,232.01.

Some Asian markets were unable to hold on to gains, however. Hong Kong's Hang Seng flitted between positive and negative territory, finally closing 0.1 percent lower. South Korea's Kospi finished 0.3 percent down.

After hitting a 15-year high against the dollar and nine-year high against the euro on Tuesday, the dollar was trading at 84.65 yen on Thursday, down from 84.71 yen the night before in New York. The euro rose to $1.2699 from $1.2667, boosted by the upbeat German report.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 91 cents at $73.43 a barrel by late morning European time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Associated Press writers Kelly Olsen in Seoul, and Tomoko A. Hosaka and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.