European stocks stage rebound; Paris tops 4,000 points

Europe's main stock markets rebounded on Friday, with Paris jumping above 4,000 points for the first time since July 2011 as traders went bargain-hunting after earlier losses, dealers said.

In late morning deals, the Paris CAC 40 rallied to 4,009.15 points, which was the highest level since July 7, 2011. It later stood at 3,992.65 points, up 0.34 percent from Thursday's close.

Elsewhere, London's benchmark FTSE 100 gained 0.36 percent to 6,712.02 points, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 index won 0.14 percent to 8,380.06.

"What we are seeing here is just another case of buying the dips," analyst Craig Erlam at trading group Alpari.

Markets had traded in negative territory for much of the morning, after overnight losses on Wall Street, as sentiment was hurt by weak economic data and speculation that the Federal Reserve was mulling an exit to its quantitative easing (QE) stimulus policy, dealers said.

"Earlier in the session, European stocks were in negative territory following the comments from two members of the Fed that suggested we could see the asset purchases phased out as early as this summer," Erlam told AFP.

"As we have seen on numerous occasions recently, this has just been taken as an opportunity to buy the dip and continue to drive the indices.

He added: "The fact that the threat of asset purchases being scaled back as early as this summer hasn't been taken too seriously (and) shows that very little is going to stop these indices continuing to hit new highs.

"At this stage it seems that only suggestions from (Fed chief) Ben Bernanke himself about the scaling back of asset purchases will bring investors back down to earth."

According to Dow Jones Newswires, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams said he was open to scaling back the Fed's bond-buying programme in the coming months if the economy continued to improve.

Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser had already hinted at a potential tapering out of the US central bank's QE stimulus.

"In light of reports this week that the Fed has mapped out a plan to exit QE, traders are on edge about the prospects of the US economic recovery," said ETX Capital analyst Ishaq Siddiqi.

"Markets... are unsure if the US economy can go at it alone without the support of the central bank in forthcoming months."

In foreign exchange deals on Friday, the European single currency eased to $1.2867 from $1.2881 late in New York on Thursday.

-- Walmart disappoints --

Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.28 percent on Thursday, pausing from its recent record streak after a disappointing earnings report from Walmart and some middling economic data.

Retail giant Walmart reported disappointing profits and signalled weaker-than-expected results in the second quarter.

Investors were also unimpressed by a rise in initial US jobless claims by 32,000 to 360,000. New building permits meanwhile soared in April, but housing starts plummeted.

"Higher initial claims, weaker housing starts and a negative 'Philly Fed' index all pointed to weaker growth in the United States," said economist Derek Halpenny at the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ in London.

Asian stock markets meanwhile turned in a mixed performance, with sentiment also hit by losses in New York.

Tokyo gained 0.67 percent, Shanghai stocks added 0.21 percent and Sydney rose 0.29 percent, while Taipei fell 0.26 percent. Hong Kong and Seoul markets were closed for public holidays.

Elsewhere on Friday, the yen remained pressured by Japan's enormous monetary easing policies.

The euro climbed to 132.01 yen. It had soared as high as 132.77 yen on Tuesday, touching the highest level since January 2012.

And the dollar rose to 102.57 yen on Friday, one day after soaring to 102.76 yen -- which was a level last witnessed in October 2008.

On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold dipped to $1,376.35 an ounce, from $1,381 late on Thursday.