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European stocks rise; dollar strikes 101 yen before G7


Europe's main stock markets rose on Friday and the dollar surged to a new four-year high above 101 yen, boosted by upbeat US labour market data and before a key G7 finance meeting.

Traders were also awaiting a speech from US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke.

In early afternoon deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies advanced 0.57 percent to 6,630.50 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 gained 0.65 percent to 8,315.30 points and in Paris the CAC 40 was up 0.59 percent at 3,932.97.

"Attention later in the day will turn to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's keynote speech at the Chicago Fed annual banking conference and this weekend's G7 meeting taking place right here in the UK," said ETX Capital analyst Ishaq Siddiqi.

He added: "European stock markets continued to advance on Friday with key indices posting fresh highs for the year, the FTSE 100 firmly above the 6,600 level, the DAX now above 8,300.

"The US dollar breached above the 100 mark against the yen for the first time in four years following yesterday's weekly jobless claims data which showed further stabilisation in the US labour market."

Thursday's Department of Labor report showed fewer unemployment benefits claims than expected.

In Friday trade, the dollar soared as high as 101.74 yen, touching a level last seen on October 17, 2008.

Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of Seven top economies will gather Friday for two-day talks on spurring growth, with currency factors likely to feature after the US dollar surged past 100 yen late on Thursday.

The greenback has also soared against the yen as Tokyo's aggressive stimulus efforts to lift the Japanese economy continue to depress its currency, helping to boost demand for Japanese exports.

Speed of fall of the yen

"The move above 100 yen was always on the cards," said Kathleen Brooks, research director at trading firm

She added: "This weekend the G7 finance ministers and central bankers meet in London (and) it will be interesting to see if they say anything about the speed of the yen's decline.

"In the recent past the international community has supported the Bank of Japan's action and not criticised the slump in the yen, however it's hard to see this lasting especially if we continue to see a rapid decline in the Japanese currency.

"Will Germany, who has a similar export mix to Japan, be happy to continue to see a weak yen? I think Chancellor Merkel may have something to say about that."

Last month, G20 nations gave the green light to aggressive stimulus by Japan, despite recent heavy criticism in Europe that the Asian country is forcing down the yen's value to help exporters.

Japan maintains that the policy is aimed at boosting growth and overcoming deflation.

Central banks around the world have increasingly turned to low interest rates and other stimulus measures in a bid to stimulate growth.

In Asia on Friday, the Tokyo stock market rallied to its highest level in more than five years as the dollar surged versus the yen.

Tokyo jumped 2.93 percent to finish the week at 14,607.54 points, while Sydney gained 0.15 percent, Shanghai increased 0.62 percent and Hong Kong added 0.47 percent.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's big government spending and aggressive central bank monetary easing to reflate the world's third-largest economy after years of deflation continued to depress the country's currency.

The yen has plunged about 30 percent against the dollar since late last year and the weakening has accelerated in the wake of the aggressive bond-buying programme unveiled in April by the Bank of Japan. In late September 2012 it was as low as 77.25 yen.

However, Rabobank analyst Jane Foley played down talk of any new G7 comments on the topic.

"It is unlikely that the G7 meeting today will offer fresh direction for the currency market; any remarks on foreign exchange are set to remain along the lines of the well worn mantra that markets should set exchange rates," Foley said.

The European single currency dipped to $1.3013 from $1.3044 late on Thursday in New York.

On the London Bullion Market, gold fell to $1,449.25 an ounce from $1,465 on Thursday.