European stock markets traded mixed on Wednesday.
London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 3.3 points, or 0.07%, to 4,545.3, with the U.S. equity market little changed at the time of the close. Heavyweights Royal Bank of Scotland, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto traded ex-dividend Wednesday, wiping 8 points off the FTSE index.
Germany's DAX index lost 42.85 points, or 1.05%, to 4,044.7 German shares remained under pressure in line with a mixed to lower performance on Wall Street. DIW economists cut German growth forecasts. Degussa and Volkswagen personnel cuts suggest that the German jobless rate might increase in coming months. Deutsche Telekom, RWE, and Metro stocks were lower.
In Paris, the CAC 40 gained 21.06 points, or 0.56%, to 3,758.09. In stocks news, Accor declined to comment on renewed speculation it could make a friendly offer for Club Med. Alstom plunged after forecasting higher restructuring costs and warning fiscal 2003-2004 operating margin will be slightly below 2% to 2.5% foreseen in November.
Asian markets finished lower on Wednesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index Lost 98.8 points, or 0.86%, to close at 11,433.24. Japan's economy grew a real 1.6% in the October-December quarter from the previous quarter, revised down from the initially reported 1.7% expansion, the government said Wednesday. That brought stocks lower at the close. Computer-linked companies led the laggards after the Nasdaq fell overnight and erased gains for the year. Compounding the bearish mood was news that Canon cut its sales forecast because of competition amid a stronger Japanese yen.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 183.05 points, or 1.37%, to close at 13,214.2. The top index percentage loser was Wheelock (-5.2%), followed by China Unicom (-4.8%). Cathay Pacific (-1.8%) stayed weak after it posted a 67.3% year-over-year drop in its fiscal year 2003 net profit. On the upside, utilities HK Electric and CLP went up as investors switched funds to defensive counters.