By PAN PYLASAssociated Press
LONDON (AP) - Relief over China's economic growth rate helped shore up the mood in financial markets Monday despite weaker than anticipated U.S. retail sales figures.
China, the world's second-largest economy grew 7.5 percent from a year earlier in the second quarter. Though the figure is down on the previous quarter's 7.7 percent, there had been fears that it may have fallen below 7 percent in the wake of efforts by the country's monetary authorities to clamp down on risky lending. A sharp drop would hurt companies around the world that have become increasingly reliant on breakneck Chinese growth to boost earnings.
"China's growth rate might still be on a steadily declining path, but investors were happy enough to see it come in line with expectations, growing by 7.5 percent in the second quarter," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG. "Beijing was keen to emphasize that internal consumption was picking up the slack, and helpfully retail sales rose strongly during June."
Combined with an easing in tensions over Europe's financial crisis and diminishing fears about the Federal Reserve's plans to rein in its monetary stimulus, the figures bode well for markets.
"We could be in for a week of quiet, steady gains for stock markets," he said.
Following a 1 percent rise in the Shanghai Composite Index to 2,059.39, European stock markets posted solid gains. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.5 percent at 6,576, while Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent to 8,237. The CAC-40 in France was 0.6 percent higher at 3,877.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.1 percent at 15,480, while the broader S&P 500 was steady at 1,680.
The opening on Wall Street was not as strong as futures markets had been predicting. That was a result of the news that U.S. retail sales only grew 0.4 percent in June from the month before. That was half the rate expected and may mean downward revisions to U.S. second quarter growth forecasts. Retail sales account for around 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
"After today's report, there is a very real possibility that Q2 GDP will be less than 1 percent for the second time in the last three quarters," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG.
Though the figures suggest the U.S. economy is not growing as quickly as anticipated, they may mean the U.S. Federal Reserve starts reducing its monetary stimulus later. For weeks the Fed's monetary stance has been the main driver in markets. The Dow and the S&P 500 struck all-time highs last week partly on an indication from the Fed that the monetary stimulus may be in place for longer than previously expected. At the moment, the Fed is buying around $85 billion of assets in the markets, and that's helped prop up stocks for months.
Some comfort came from forecast-busting earnings from Citigroup. The bank made $1.25 per share during the second quarter, beating the $1.18 per share predicted by analysts polled by FactSet.
It's a busy week on the U.S. corporate reporting front. Other reports expected this week include Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, Google and Microsoft. General Electric caps off the week Friday.
The dollar has faltered in recent days as expectations of a Fed tightening have eased. It clawed back some ground Monday, with the euro 0.2 percent lower at $1.3044. The dollar was 0.7 percent higher at 100.09 yen.
Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.1 percent to 21,303.31 and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1 percent to 4,981.10. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent 1,875.16. Japan's financial markets were closed for a public holiday.
Oil prices gave up some recent gains. Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 97 cents at $104.98 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.04 to $105.95 in New York on Friday, driven higher by continuing tensions in Egypt and a sharp drop in U.S. crude stockpiles.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.