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European stock markets closed mixed on Thursday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was off 16.10 points, or 0.37%, to 4,357.50. Standard & Poor's European MarketScope reports that UK retailing stocks slumped, offsetting gains in the mining sector. Boots shed 10.7% as analysts downgrade the shares after this morning's trading update showed increased pension and investment costs. A profit warning at Sainsbury sent the shares plunging 8.6%. News of the sales of the company's U.S. unit Shaw's failed to counter investor frustration at continued negative newsflow.
In Paris, the CAC 40 was up 21.99 points, or 0.62%, to 3,592.39. Standard & Poor's European MarketScope reports JC Decaux (+3.09%) traded in high spirits on press reports saying Viacom is eyeing a merger with it, though no talks are currently underway.
Germany's DAX index added 10.41 points, or 0.27%, to 3,822.33. Standard & Poor's European MarketScope reports shares picking up again at mid-session having slipped off morning highs earlier after the Ifo pan-German business climate index came in at 95.4, from 96.4 and vs. expectations of 95.7. Among the drivers of the German index is Lufthansa (+3.25%), which is benefiting from the positive outlook it released at yesterday's analyst meeting and as concerns about terrorist attacks abate.
In Asia, the equity markets finished mixed. The Nikkei 225 index added 239.74 points, or 2.08%, to 11,770.65. The main catalyst for today's upbeat session came from the 3% surge on the Nasdaq and broad gains on Wall Street. Hitachi, the main supplier of one-inch hard disks to Apple, rose strongly on news that Apple's iPod mini sales are doing well. Nippon Steel led steelmakers on an NKS report that steel prices are set to rise by 5% to 10%. Losers were led by Credit Saison, Ito-Yokado, and Daiwa House. This morning's release of a higher than expected household spending (+6.9% year-over-year, vs. consensus of +3.5%) also added fuel to the positive sentiment while retail sales rose for the second straight month (February retail sales up 0.9% year-over-year, vs. consensus of +1.6%).
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index eased 36.97 points, or 0.30%, to 12,483.24.
Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX fell 4.35 points, or 0.05%, to 8,509.56.