TOKYO (AP) -- Global stocks were mostly subdued Thursday following worse-than-expected Chinese trade figures, but markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai rose sharply on plans to link the bourses that would widen access to China for foreign investors.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai benchmarks reversed course by midday, making up for morning losses after Premier Li Keqiang announced plans for closer ties between the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets.
"We will carry out a new round of opening-up at a high level," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Li as saying. Li said opening capital markets is crucial to China's broader long-term effort to modernize its economy.
Securities regulators said the changes would allow stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai to be traded on each other's markets, a move that would expand the pool of investors for each market.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.5 percent to close at 23,186.96 and the Shanghai Composite added 1.4 percent to end at 2,134.30.
Li's comments pushed shares of Hong Kong brokerages up by 10 to 20 percent, said Jackson Wong, a vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.
Other markets were more restrained, with the upward momentum from Wednesday's rally on Wall Street dissipating after China reported that its imports dropped 11.3 percent in March from a year earlier, along with a surprise 6.6 percent drop in exports. The figures suggest the mainland's economic slowdown may be deeper than feared.
In early European trading, Germany's DAX was little change at 9,508.80 while France's CAC 40 was down 0.1 percent at 4,440.44. The FTSE 110 index of leading British companies climbed 0.2 percent to 6,646.51.
U.S. stocks were poised to drop. Dow futures fell 0.2 percent to 16,335.00 and broader S&P 500 futures slipped 0.1 percent to 1,862.20.
Most other Asian benchmarks finished with modest gains. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock average ended unchanged at 14,300.12 while South Korea's Kospi rose 0.5 percent to 2,008.61. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.3 percent to 5,480.80.
Shares fell in Singapore and Indonesia, but were higher in New Zealand and India.
In currencies, the dollar fell to 101.49 from 102.10 yen late Wednesday. The yen has strengthened since the Bank of Japan failed to announce fresh stimulus measures earlier this week. The euro edged up to .3865 from .3856.
Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was up 6 cents to 3.66 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained .04 to 3.60 on Wednesday.
AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed.US International NewsSingapore International NewsHong KongChinaPremier Li Keqiang
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