Japan's Nikkei rises above 20,000 level, Europe stocks down
TOKYO (AP) Japan's stock benchmark closed above the 20,000-level for the first time in 15 years Wednesday, encouraged by the country's first monthly trade surplus since 2012. European stocks fell on uncertainty about whether Greece will stay in the euro.
KEEPING SCORE: European markets rose at the open but then surrendered gains as jitters about the possibility of a Greek default and exit from the euro reared again. France's CAC 40 fell 0.8 percent to 5,154.77 and Germany's DAX dropped 0.8 percent to 11,841.72. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.8 percent to 7,004.07. U.S. shares were set to fall, with Dow futures down 0.5 percent to 17,789. S&P 500 futures were off 0.4 percent at 2,082.90.
JAPAN TRADE: Japan posted its first monthly trade surplus in nearly three years in March, thanks to falling import costs from cheaper oil prices, along with a modest recovery in exports. It is unclear how long surpluses will continue as Japan's oil and gas import bill could rise again due to the weak yen. But a U.S. recovery has helped boost Japan's exports, and the government has been aggressively encouraging tourism.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.1 percent to finish at 20,133.90, the first time since April 14, 2000 that the index closed above 20,000 points. South Korea's Kospi was little changed at 2,143.89. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.3 percent to 27,933.85 and China's Shanghai Composite jumped 2.4 percent to 4,398.49. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 5,837.50.
THE QUOTE: "Japanese exports for March, out this morning, came in showing an increase of 8.5 percent," said Nicholas Teo, market analyst with CMC Markets in Singapore. "With the tourist season heading into full swing, the advantage of a lower yen will also have a huge impact on these numbers in the months ahead."
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude for June delivery was down 55 cents to $56.05 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The May contract fell $1.12 to close at $55.26 in New York on its last day of trading Tuesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, lost 30 cents to $61.76 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.0791 from $1.0736 late Tuesday. The dollar fell to 119.43 yen from 119.70 yen.