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World Markets Upbeat Friday


Despite more grim international corporate reports, global markets were generally upbeat Friday in anticipation of the U.S. Senate heading toward a vote on a massive economic stimulus bill.

Friday brought more bad economic news. Leading the list: worse than expected U.S. job losses in January that amounted to 598,000.

In Asia, more bad news as Japanese electronics maker Sharp says it will lay-off 1,500 domestic employees in an effort to save just over two billion dollars.

And the world's biggest car producer, Toyota, has revised its losses for 2008. It now expects those losses to be three times higher than previous estimates, with a total of around five billion dollars.

In Germany, manufacturing output contracted by 4.6 percent in December, the steepest decline in 20 years.

In Britain, company bankruptcies are up by more than 50 percent.

London insolvency expert Nick Hood says a lot of those bankruptcies were small business.

"These are family-owned businesses across all sectors in the U.K. economy. And the pressures they are facing are the fastest deteriorating markets any of them have ever seen, a complete uncertainty about where they are going and of course great difficulty in accessing funding for their businesses," Hood says.

Even so, investors seemed to shake off the torrent of bad news. Both European and Asian stock markets climbed Friday.

Japan's Nikkei index gained 1.6 percent and Britain's FTSE 100 swelled by 2.1 percent. Germany's DAX added 2.4 percent and France's CAC 40 surged 2.1 percent.

Investors were optimistic about the pending U.S. stimulus plan, expected to win approval from U.S. lawmakers.

Also helping were growing expectations governments would do more to help the world's struggling finance sector.

In the United States, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to deliver a speech Monday outlining an overhaul of the government's $700 billion financial rescue program. It is expected to include steps to extract the failed assets from bank balance sheets.

In Asia, better-than-expected manufacturing and bank lending reports this week helped boost confidence that Beijing's efforts to safeguard the economy were beginning to show results.

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