Portugal bond auction dominates markets

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<strong>European markets</strong> were today putting <strong>Portugal</strong> under the microscope as the ailing euro zone member launched its first debt auction of the year. <br />
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The country - desperately trying to avoid a bailout from the European Union and IMF - is tapping bond investors for around &euro;1.24bn.
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All eyes are on the auction which is key to nursing the battered euro zone back to health. <br />
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On a positive note Japan indicated that it may be willing to up further its investment in euro bonds, a policy which is helping to stabilize European markets.
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The <strong>FTSE 100</strong> opened slightly higher as did other European markets. Globally, equities were higher, led by emerging markets and generally boosted by hopes for a solid earnings season. <strong>HSBC </strong>and <strong>Barclays </strong>built on gains made yesterday, while mining stocks also performed well. <br />
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<strong>Asian shares</strong> rose slightly overnight on the back of gains on Wall Street and strong <strong>US earnings reports</strong>, with Tokyo's benchmark <strong>Nikkei</strong> index up 0.15 per cent. <br />
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The health of the<strong> UK retail sector</strong> was given a boost today with supermarket chain<strong> Sainsbury's</strong> turning in record figures over the Christmas period. <br />
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But <strong> trade balance figures</strong> dealt a blow to the UK economy. Britain's goods trade deficit with the rest of the world unexpectedly deteriorated in November to hit a record high, driven by imports of oil and aircraft, official data showed.<br />
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Meanwhile <strong>US export and import</strong> prices will be released later while the <strong>Federal Budget</strong> this evening will dominate the agenda across the Atlantic. <br />
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The <strong>euro</strong> was trading around $1.2986 to the dollar, rising slightly after plunging to a four-month trough around $1.2871 on Monday. <br />
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<strong>Gold prices</strong> rose more than $4 to $1,384.80 an ounce, below its historical high of around $1,430 struck in December but still buoyed by high <strong>oil prices</strong> and the euro zone crisis, both of which help promote gold's image as a safe haven.

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