Shares surge as ECB unveils latest plans
Stocks on Wall Street and in Europe surged as the European Central Bank announced its most aggressive bond-buying programme and new data showed a strengthening US recovery.
In the most decisive move yet to resolve the three-year eurozone crisis, ECB president Mario Draghi said the programme, called Outright Monetary Transactions, would involve open-ended purchases of short-maturity bonds to keep borrowing costs down for Spain, Italy and other struggling economies.
But it would be conditional on meeting policies approved by the International Monetary Fund.
In the US, the Institute for Supply Management reported increased service-sector activity for August, while growth in private-sector jobs was also better than expected.
The Labour Department reported initial jobless claims during the latest week were lower than expected.
Blue chip shares rose to their highest this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 224.52 points, or 1.9%, to 13,292.00, above its previous 2012 closing high of 13,279.
The S&P 500 index added 2.0% to 1432.12, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 2.2% to 3135.81.
This means the S&P 500 has regained levels last reached before global markets plunged during the financial crisis of 2008-09. The Nasdaq Composite has reached its highest level in more than a decade.
Other markets: Europe, Asia up
European markets posted even stronger gains, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 2.3% to 271.67 after Mr Draghi's announcement.
Spain's IBEX 35 closed up 4.9% at 7862.00, and Italy's FTSE Mib climbed 4.3% to 15780.32.
The UK's FTSE 100 index rose 2.1% to 5777.34, France's CAC 40 lifted 3.1% to 3509.88 and Germany's DAX gained 2.9% to 7167.33, its highest closing level since July 2011.
Australia's benchmark posted its biggest rise in three weeks as Asian markets firmed.
The S&P/ASX 200 firmed 0.8% at 4312.9, its biggest gain since August 17, supported by higher copper prices and a slowdown in the descent of iron-ore prices.
In China, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7% to 2051.92, its first gain in three days.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.3% to 19,209.30, while Japan's Nikkei Stock Average edged up fractionally to 8680.57, enough to snap a five-session losing streak. Korea's Kospi firmed 0.4% to 1881.24,
Commodities: Oil, gold up
Oil futures rallied. Light, sweet crude for October delivery rose $US1.62, or 1.7%, to $US96.98 a barrel in New York. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe advanced $US1.11, or 1%, to $US114.20 a barrel.
The most actively traded gold contract, for December delivery, traded up $US12.60, or 0.7%, at $US1706.60 an ounce. The session peak of $US1716.90 was the highest since March 12.
Currencies: Euro drops, recovers
The euro weakened after the ECB slashed its economic forecasts but then bounced back after it also confirmed plans to buy bonds in financially stressed countries.
The euro pulled back from a two-month high of $US1.2652 after the ECB left its official interest rates unchanged at historic lows.
But it later recovered to $US1.2627 compared with $US1.26 late on Wednesday.
The dollar was at ¥78.96 compared with ¥78.39, while the euro was at ¥99.703 from ¥98.80.
The pound was at $US1.5927 compared with $US1.5901.