BP compensation settlement buoys stocks on Wall Street

BP's agreement to set up a $US20 billion fund for victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has heartened Wall Street, holding stock prices steady after a volatile session

The market opened lower, hurt by worries about Spain's debt. But the energy sector led a rebound after the BP announcement kept major indexes trading in a tight rang.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished  4.69 points higher at 10,409.46. The S&P 500 index was less than point higher at 1114.61.

Utilities and technology stocks climbed and the energy sector also picked up steam, while other sectors declined.

The Nasdaq Composite was unchanged at 2305.93, helped up by a 2.6% rise in Apple after the company said it took pre-orders for more than 600,000 of its new iPhone 4, surprisingly high demand for the smartphone.

Other markets: Europe, Asia up

European stocks edged higher after a choppy session, as concerns regarding the economic health of Spain continued to damp market sentiment, which also put the brakes on the single currency's recent strong run.

Amid speculation that Spain will require some form of emergency funding, the yield gap between German 10-year bund yields and comparable Spanish government bonds widened to 2.24 percentage points, the highest level since the creation of the euro.

Despite those credit-market concerns, stocks remain relatively bouyant. The Stoxx 600 eked out a late gain to end up 0.1% at 254.47, its sixth consecutive gain.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 gained 0.4% to 5237.92, Germany's DAX rose 0.3% to 6190.91 and France's CAC-40 ended up 0.4% at 3675.93.

Most Asian markets ended with solid gains after Tuesday’s strong rally on Wall Street and in the euro, which helped exporters such as Canon and Samsung Electronics. Buoyant commodity prices lifted resource shares.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 1.8% to 10067.15, finishing above the 10,000 mark for the first time since May 20.

Korea's Kospi closed up 0.9% at 1705.33, its highest close since May 4. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.2%, and Indonesia's JSX Composite and Singapore's Straits Times Index each gained 1%.

Markets in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were closed for the Dragon Boat Festival holiday.

Commodities: Oil up, gold steady

Crude futures reversed earlier losses, setting a new six-week high on strong US gasoline demand figures.

Light, sweet crude for July delivery traded 88USc higher at $US77.82 a barrel in New York Mercantile. The intraday high of $US77.90 a barrel was the highest since May 10. Brent crude for August delivery on the ICE futures exchange traded $US1.10 higher, at $US78.20.

Gold futures were mostly steady, hanging onto the previous session's gains amid concerns about European debt issues.

The market initially drew slight support from soft US housing starts but overall has reacted little to a heavy slate of data that also included the producer price index and industrial production.

Gold for June delivery slipped $US1.20, or 0.1%, to $US1232 an ounce in New York.

Currencies: Dollar up, euro down

The dollar gained broadly as a fresh wave of concern over euro-zone sovereign debt, along with disappointing US economic data, led investors away from the euro and other riskier currencies.

The euro fell against the dollar and the Japanese yen as investors sought safety in the traditional haven currecnies, while leading to further losses in currencies closely tied to global growth, including the Australian dollar, which lost nearly 0.7% against the greenback.

The euro was at $US1.2273 from $US1.2347 late on Tuesday. The dollar was at ¥91.19 from ¥91.38, while the euro was at ¥111.90 from ¥112.83.

The UK pound was at $US1.4775 from $US1.4819.