World Stocks Mixed Amid Bargain-Hunting

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Asian stocks eked out gains yesterday as traders hunted for
bargains after sharp selling in recent days, but markets in Europe fell amid
intensifying fears of a messy exit by Greece from the euro common currency.

Greece called a new round of elections for June 17 after
coalition talks to form a government fell apart. The president said depositors
were pulling hundreds of millions of euros out of banks, weakening the
country’s strained financial system.

The developments fueled fears that Greece would exit the
euro currency and shake global markets. In elections earlier this month, Greek
voters punished parties that supported tough austerity measures needed to
secure international bailout money.

But analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said the
scheduling of new Greek elections suggested “a reduction in near-term
uncertainties” that could lead to some relief for volatile markets.

Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent to 5,380.72 in early
trading. Germany’s DAX fell 0.2 percent to 6,373.01 and France’s CAC-40 lost
0.2 percent to 3,042.45.

U.S. stocks were set for a moderately higher opening, with
Dow Jones industrial futures up 0.3 percent at 12,610. S&P 500 futures rose
0.4 percent to 1,327.

In Asia, stock markets enjoyed a slight rebound as investors
went bargain-hunting, analysts said.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 climbed 0.9 percent to close at 8,876.59
after the country posted better-than-expected growth figures for the first
quarter. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3 percent to 1,845.24. Benchmarks in
Taiwan, New Zealand and the Philippines also rose.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.2 percent to 4,157.40,
dragged down by financial stocks. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed 0.3 percent down
at 19,200.93.

Mainland Chinese shares bounced back from early losses,
buoyed by calls from the country’s central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, for
market reforms.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.4 percent to
2,378.89. The Shenzhen Composite Index also gained 1.4 percent to 954.95.
Shares in brokerages, financial and trading-related companies led the gains.

Positive news on the U.S. economy on Wednesday underpinned
sentiment in Asia. Construction of homes in April rose 2.6 percent from March,
and U.S. factory production increased 0.6 percent in April, helped by a gain in
auto production.

Some Japanese stocks saw big gains amid news that the
country’s economy grew at an annualized 4.1 percent for the January-March
quarter thanks to a rebound in consumer spending.

Sharp Corp. jumped 5.7 percent and Mazda Motor Corp. added
3.8 percent. Steel company JFE Holdings shot up 5.5 percent.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 52 cents to $93.33
per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On
Wednesday, the contract fell by $1.17 to finish at a seven-month low of $92.81
per barrel in New York.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2715 from $1.2725 late
Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 80.35 yen from 80.29 yen.