World markets advance

An investor reacts as he looks at a stock price monitor at a private securities company today in Shanghai, China. <BR><I>AP?photo

HONG KONG - Asian and European stocks rose Thursday after Wall Street posted another gain and China slashed interest rates by the most in a decade to boost economic growth. Indian markets were closed after deadly attacks in the country's financial capital.

Investors cheered China's 1.08 percentage-point rate cut to spur private borrowing and support a multibillion-dollar stimulus package to keep the country's economy - a key engine of growth in Asia and elsewhere - from slowing too fast.

In the U.S., there were signs the markets were stabilizing and investor confidence was returning as the Dow Jones industrials and Standard & Poor's 500 index posted their first four-day advance since last spring.

As trading opened in Europe, benchmarks in Britain, Germany and France followed Asian shares higher, gaining between 1 percent and 2 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average added almost 2 percent to 8,373.39 points, while Hong Kong Kong's Hang Seng benchmark rose 1.4 percent to 13,552.06

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite index rose 1.1 percent to 1,917.86, after gaining as much as 3.7 percent. Markets in South Korea, Taiwan and Australia also were higher.

In India, markets were closed after coordinated attacks by teams of gunmen across Mumbai, the country's financial capital, killed at least 101 people. It was unclear when trading would resume.

Thai shares traded lower after authorities shut down Bangkok's second airport Thursday after it was overrun by anti-government protesters, completely cutting off the capital from air traffic as the country's political crisis deepened.

Australian mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. gained 5.7 percent, and No. 2 Chinese steel maker Angang surged 7.3 percent in Hong Kong. Japan's Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., the world's biggest cargo shipper, jumped 7.4 percent.

Oil prices weakened as dismal U.S. economic data and rising crude inventories outweighed the possibility of production cuts by OPEC and Russia. The January contract was down $1.67 to $52.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Singapore.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 95.10 yen from 95.54 Wednesday. The euro increased to $1.2916 from $1.2889.

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