By DAVID McHUGHFRANKFURT, Germany (AP) â¿¿ U.S. and European stocks traded only modestly higher Friday after news that the American economy kept creating jobs at the expected rate last month. Stocks in Europe had been down early in the session, held back by U.S. Federal Reserve minutes from its December meeting that revealed some officials favored ending the central bank's extraordinary stimulus measures this year. The Fed's ongoing bond purchases have helped lower interest rates and pumped newly created money into the economy, helping support an economic recovery. Major indexes moved a little higher after the release of the U.S. non-farm payrolls figure but didn't get much of a bounce from the numbers. The economy created 155,000 jobs in December, about what analysts expected. The U.S. Labor Department also said hiring was stronger than initially reported for November, raising the figure by 15,000 to 161,000. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.8 percent. The Dow Jones industrials average was up 0.1 percent at 13,340.64 in midday trading in New York, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 was up 0.3 percent at 1,463.26 Britain's FTSE closed 0.7 percent to 6089.84 and the German DAX rose 0.26 percent to 7776.37. France's CAC 40 climbed 0.2 percent to 3730.02. In Asia, Japan's benchmark stock index soared Friday on its first trading day in the new year as investors belatedly joined the rally over the last-minute budget deal reached in Washington to avoid steep, automatic tax increases and spending cuts. The measure, however, was also largely seen as crisis avoidance â¿¿ putting off hard decisions about how to reduce government spending and deal with America's massive debt. Relief rallies on staving off the so-called "fiscal cliff" faded in Europe and the U.S. after the Fed minutes Thursday showed that officials were divided about how long to continue its extraordinary stimulus measures.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 jumped 2.8 percent to 10,688.11, its highest closing in 22 months. Much of the enthusiasm for Japanese shares comes from the steadily weakening yen, a big help to Japanese companies that sell abroad.Investors have high hopes that new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies, centered on loose monetary policy and public spending, will pull the world's third-largest economy out of the doldrums. Elsewhere, however, investor fervor wilted. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.3 percent to 23,331.09. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4 percent to 2,011.94, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 4,723.80. China was mixed. __ Pamela Sampson contributed from Bangkok.