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Investment

Most of the world&#39s equity markets rose sharply last week, with aggressive buying on Friday afternoon following the release of the latest US employment numbers which came in way ahead of expectations. By the end of the week, the FTSE World index had risen 2.9 per cent, taking its gain since the start of the year to 3.7 per cent.

In the UK, shares ended the week higher, with blue-chip stocks leading the way following a gain of 2.5 per cent for the FTSE 100. It was also another solid week for mid-cap stocks, with the FTSE 250 rising 2.1 per cent, taking its gain since the start of the year to 9.1 per cent. Smaller companies were slightly more subdued, although the FTSE Small Cap index still ended the week 0.5 per cent higher and has now risen 7 per cent since the start of the year.

In the US, equity investors reacted positively to farm payroll figures, which showed 308,000 jobs were created in March. The disappointing numbers from the previous two months were also revised higher.

By the end of the week the Dow Jones was up 2.4 per cent while the S&P 500 had gained 2.9 per cent. However, the best returns were seen in the technology sector, pushing the Nasdaq back through 2,000 for a gain on the week of 4.1 per cent.

Europe&#39s stockmarkets also ended the week with strong gains, with the ECB&#39s decision to leave interest rates at 2 per cent for the 10th consecutive month being more than compensated for by the good economic news from the US. By Friday&#39s close, the FTSE Eurotop 300 ex UK index was trading 3.8 per cent higher, a rise of 5.5 per cent since January.

In Japan, share prices moved modestly higher, consolidating on their recent strong gains, while on the economic front the latest Tankan survey of business confidence rose to its highest level since June 1997. The Nikkei 225 rose by 0.4 per cent, taking its annual gain for the fiscal year ended March 31 to 47 per cent, its best performance for more than 30 years.

Other Asian markets were strong.Taiwan shares rose 6.7 per cent and Hong Kong&#39s Hang Seng ended up by 2 per cent.

In the currency markets, the yen surged to a four-year high against the dollar and to its highest level in four months against the euro.

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