By Richard Hubbard
LONDON (Reuters) - World shares, copper, oil and growth-linked currencies rose on Thursday as stronger-than-expected Chinese exports raised hopes of a more robust recovery in the global economy this year.
The export rebound in the world's second largest economy also lifted U.S. stock index futures, pointing to a firmer open on Wall Street and earlier boosted Asian markets, sending the MSCI world equity index up 0.3 percent.
"The market's more positive and it owes a lot of that to the Chinese economic data," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York, adding that the success of a Spanish bond auction had also helped.
Spain's first debt sale of 2013 raised more money than expected at a lower borrowing cost than in a previous auction, sending benchmark Spanish bond yields to 10-month lows.
News of a big cut in oil production by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, added to gains in Brent crude prices, which hit a 12-week high of $113.29 a barrel.
However, the decision by European Central Bank to hold interest rates unchanged, as expected, left European equities unmoved near two-year highs.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was steady at 1,168.80 points, with London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX were between 0.1 and 0.3 percent higher.
China surprised most observers by reporting its exports had rebounded sharply in December to a seven-month high, with imports growing at double the expected rate. However, the data showed demand for its goods from the United States and Europe remained subdued.
A broad measure of Chinese credit growth was also found to have risen strongly, making it likely that the economy will be shown to have expanded by around 7.8 percent in 2012 when fourth quarter GDP data come out next week.
China's GDP growth touched a 3-1/2-year low of 7.4 percent between July and September last year.
The strength of imports revealed in the data stoked hopes of greater demand across the commodity markets, lifting copper, iron ore and oil prices.
"Risk is back on after the China data," said Carsten Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "General market sentiment is much more positive, with hopes of better growth pushing up most markets."
London copper was up 0.85 percent at $8,150 a tonne while U.S. crude futures rose 1.4 percent to $94.45 a barrel and Brent futures added one percent to $112.90.
The oil market extended its gains during the day when an industry source familiar with Saudi oil policy told Reuters the exporter had cut production by around 700,000 barrels a day (bpd) over the last two months of last year.
The economic report from China, Australia's largest trading partner, sent the Aussie dollar to a three-week high of $1.0568 and contributed to further falls in the Japanese yen.
The yen has been weakening on expectations of massive fiscal spending and aggressive monetary easing in the coming weeks advocated by the new government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The dollar was up 0.5 percent to 88.28 yen, inching closer to its highest since July 2010 of 88.48 reached on Friday. The euro was also up 0.9 percent to 115.80 yen. Last week it hit 115.99 yen, its highest since July 2011.
SPANISH STRAINS EASE
The euro gained an extra boost after Spain's debt auction raised 5.8 billion euros.
Most of the demand was for a bond maturing in 2015 that would be covered by an ECB bond-buying programme if Spain were to apply for international aid, though the success of the auction has probably pushed back the timing of any request.
"Against this backdrop the Spanish government will be in no rush to request external assistance," said Nick Stamenkovic, macro strategist at RIA Capital Markets, who added that he still expects Madrid to call for help by mid-2013.
The euro rose 0.4 percent to its highest level of the day of $1.3112, while yields on 10-year Spanish bonds fell below 5 percent to reach a 10-month low of 4.97 percent.
(Additional reporting by Tricia Wright and Christopher Johnson. Editing by Giles Elgood and David Stamp)