GLOBAL MARKETS-Alcoa results lift shares, dollar gains on yen

Wed Jan 9, 2013 3:09pm GMT

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* World shares rise as Alcoa points to rising global demand

* Dollar gains versus yen on expectations of BOJ easing

* Brent crude stays below $112 per barrel

By Luciana Lopez and Richard Hubbard

NEW YORK/LONDON Jan 9 (Reuters) - Global equities recovered modestly from a two-day slip on Wednesday after aluminum maker Alcoa opened the U.S. earnings season with a brighter outlook for global demand.

However, investors were cautious before policy meetings of European and British central banks on Thursday, when Spain also tests appetite for peripheral euro zone debt.

Alcoa, the largest aluminum producer in the United States, said late on Tuesday it is cautiously optimistic about demand for the metal in 2013, buoyed by aerospace and construction buyers.

Suggestions of growing demand in China in Alcoa's results are also significant, said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York.

"Such anecdotal signs that the belly of the Chinese dragon is starting to rumble again will not go unnoticed by investors around the world," he said.

Key U.S. stock indexes rose at the open, lifted by the Alcoa results. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 36.93 points, or 0.28 percent, to 13,365.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 2.64 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,459.79. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 7.35 points, or 0.24 percent, to 3,099.15. 

Alcoa's results lifted Asian stocks and pushed Europe's FTSE Eurofirst 300 index up 0.48 percent, leaving the MSCI world equity index with a gain of 0.31 percent. London's FTSE 100 rose 0.73 percent, as well.

Corporate profits for the fourth quarter are generally expected to be higher than in the lackluster previous three months, but analysts' estimates are down sharply from October.

Investors are also still worried about White House and congressional wrangling over raising the $16 trillion U.S. debt ceiling in coming weeks, which could become a reprise of 2011's battle that led to the United States' sovereign credit rating cut.

Prices for U.S. government debt advanced ahead of an auction of $21 billion in 10-year notes.

German government bond prices also gained following a successful auction of new five-year debt, which continued a string of strong European sales this week with Austria, the Netherlands and Ireland all tapping the market.

But a big test for the market looms on Thursday when Spain and Italy hold their first debt sales of the year, revealing the depth of demand for peripheral euro zone debt.

The Spanish auction could also offer clues on the timing of a much-anticipated request by the government for international financial aid.

Surging demand for high grade corporate debt in the United States has put the new issue market on course for a record week. Thomson Reuters IFR said new issue volume totalled a massive $33 billion by the end of Tuesday, and only $7.6 billion more was needed to match the previous weekly record of $40.6 billion.

JAPAN EASING

The dollar climbed against the yen, moving back towards a 2-1/2 year high hit last week, on expectations of a much bolder monetary easing from the Bank of Japan at its next meeting later this month.

The U.S. currency was up 0.83 percent at 87.75 yen.

"The outlook for additional easing is keeping a lid on the yen to the upside," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

Sources familiar with the BOJ's thinking told Reuters the central bank was likely to adopt a 2 percent inflation target at the meeting, double its current goal, and issue a statement with the government promising to pursue bold monetary easing steps.

The euro was slightly lower at $1.3037, easing after German industrial output rose less than expected in November.

The data were unlikely to change the ECB's thinking, with most analysts expecting interest rates to be kept on hold on Thursday, though some believe rates will be cut later this year.

Brent crude oil was below $112 per barrel on increasing supply from the United States. Front-month Brent futures slipped 0.16 percent to $111.76.