A record-high Dow Jones industrial average and an upbeat hiring report propelled global markets higher Wednesday.
The Dow, after setting an all-time high Tuesday, did it again Wednesday, after climbing another 0.3% from that previous close. It now stands at 14,296, according to preliminary figures -- about 42 points above Tuesday's close of 14,254.38.
Stock futures got a lift after the 8:15 a.m. ET release of payroll processor ADP's monthly private employment estimate. ADP estimated that businesses added a robust 198,000 jobs in February.
Meantime, investors continue to shrug off a budget impasse in Washington that has triggered $1.3 trillion in discretionary and defense cuts in 2013 and will cut at least 0.5 percentage point from economic growth this year. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note is at 1.93%, down from an earlier high this year of 2.02%.
European shares added to gains reaped a day earlier, when the Dow posted a new record. Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.1%. Germany's DAX was advanced 0.6% to 7,919.33. France's CAC-40 was down 0.35%.
Japan's benchmark index reached a multi-year closing high, capping a day of positive trade in Asia. The Nikkei 225 jumped 2.1% to close at 11,932.27, the highest finish since September 2008.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1% to 22,777.84. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2% to 2,020.74. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.8% to 5,116.80. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and mainland China rose.
Analysts said markets were taking their cues from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who has overseen a campaign of massive bond-buying to support the world's biggest economy after the 2008 financial crisis. The issuance of bonds has pushed their prices down, steering investors toward stocks. The program known as "quantitative easing" is in its third phase, which is dubbed QE3.
"The lesson is clear. Don't bet on Capitol Hill. Bet on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke instead. To be sure, it was Bernanke's reassurance, as last week's congressional testimonies on monetary policy, to keep QE3 on its present course that turned a worried stock market into a record high," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore.
Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said the new highs reached on Wall Street provided a psychological boost to investors but that such gains can go into reverse pretty quickly."From the big picture point of view, there is a lot of risk in either direction for the stock market at the moment," he said. "But we could quite easily continue rising, given how low interest rates are."
Benchmark oil for April delivery was down to about $89.72 cents per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 70 cents to close at $90.82 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday, hours after the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose country sits on the world's second-largest oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia.
In currencies, the euro fell against the dollar to $1.2990 from $1.3040 Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 94.0750 yen from 93.29 yen.