Updated from 08:16 a.m. EST with more recent European stock market index levels.
By David McHugh
FRANKFURT, Germany -- Global stock markets opened a risk-filled new year still smarting from a rough 2011, as many exchanges remained closed. German and French stocks rose in light volumes as a reading of manufacturing activity in Europe improved.
Germany's DAX closed up 3% Monday at 6,075 while the French CAC-40, which ended 2011 17% lower, climbed 2% to 3,222. Stocks closed flat in South Korea and fell in Taiwan.
Trading was light with the New York, London and most Asian stock exchanges closed.
Investors appeared to be reassured by European purchasing managers survey index numbers that improved in December from November. Activity in the manufacturing sector was up, but at levels that still show a fifth straight month of contraction.
Many of the world's leading indices are coming off a down year. Britain's FTSE was off 5.6% by year-end, Japan's Nikkei fell 17% to its lowest close since 1982, and the
Standard & Poor's 500
showed zero gain.
> > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll
Data releases later in the week such as eurozone inflation on Wednesday and German factory orders and U.S. nonfarm payrolls on Friday will give traders more grist. The U.S. employment figure is expected to rise by some 150,000 after increasing 120,000 in November.
Markets face an uncertain first quarter as eurozone leaders try to get control of government debt woes that threaten to harm the global economy with another financial meltdown.
Much of the attention in coming weeks will center on Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy and the focal point of the eurozone's struggle to deal with a crisis caused by heavy levels of government debt. Fears of default on those debts mean that bond investors demand ever-higher interest, making it a challenge for the new government of Prime Minister Mario Monti to roll over 53 billion euros ($69 billion) in debt maturing in the first quarter. If a country can no longer borrow affordably to pay off bonds that are maturing, it faces eventual default or a bailout.
Debt woes may be compounded by at least a mild recession over the last quarter of 2011 and the first part of 2012.
In Asia, South Korea's Kospi, which lost 11% of its value last year, closed nearly unchanged at 1,826.37. South Korea's tech sector move higher, with
up 2.1% and
gaining 2.3%. Steel giant
slid 1.1% and
Korea Electric Power
Taiwan's TAIEX, which was also open for business Monday, fell 1.7% to 6,952.21.
, the world's biggest contract electronics manufacturer, which makes iPads and iPhones for
, fell 0.9%. Personal computer maker
The Asian-Pacific region's major benchmarks, including Japan's Nikkei 225 index, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index and Australia's S&P ASX 200, were closed.
Last year was one that traders would prefer to forget: Most Asian equity indices closed out 2011 deeply in the red. The Nikkei in Tokyo ended the year at 8,429.45 -- its lowest closing since 1982.
China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, closed Monday, endured a 21% loss for the year as the impact of Beijing's multibillion-dollar stimulus faded and the government tightened curbs on lending and investment to cool blistering economic growth.
Business Writer Pamela Sampson contributed to this report from Bangkok.