Markets & Finance

Europe and Asia End Higher


European stock markets gained in expectation of a rise in U.S. interest rates on Wednesday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 gained 16.80 points, or 0.36%, to close at 4734.50. Shares closed higher ahead of the U.S. Fed meeting and positive reaction to Cable & Wireless' first-half results which pushed the share price up 6.39%. C&W reported an 8% rise in first-half profits to 199 million pounds from 185 million pounds this morning. Reaction is further boosted with its announcement of a 250 million pound share-buyback program and news that their chief operating officer Kevin Loosemore will leave the company at the end of March 2005. Among other companies reporting, Scottish Power took a hit after telling the market its Pacificorp division had a disappointing first-half, taking the gloss off a 12% rise in first-half profits to 442 million pounds, ahead of broker's forecasts. Publishing company Pearson reported third-quarter underlying sales were up 2% and says its flagship title, the Financial Times, will break even by the fourth-quarter.

In Germany, the DAX gained 23.80 points, or 0.59%, to close at 4089.13. German exports gained for the second month in three while imports gained 1.7%. Beiersdorf surged 7.08% after reporting better-than-expected earnings. Profit rose 8% to 79 million euro. Commerzbank edged higher, up 0.33%, after brokers raised price targets. RWE fell 2.29% following broker downgrades. Fraport reported net income rose 4% to 58.2 million euro, better than consensus, but the stock ended the day flat.

France's CAC-40 gained 14.97 points, or 0.40%, to close at 3784.91. Heavyweight Total provided consensus-beating third-quarter results, and said it will pay an interim dividend of 2.4 euro on November 24. Insurance major Axa edged up 0.17% after it announced in-line third-quarter sales. Thales fell 0.68% after tabling broadly in-line sales. In the meantime, Alcatel appears set to sell up its 9%-plus stake in Thales in a move to take profits on the recent share price rise. In the broader market, Altadis topped consensus but trimmed its fiscal-year EBITDA forecasts, seeing EBITDA at the lower end of the 4% to 6% growth range previously announced due to the current weaker-than-expected dollar.

Asian markets ended mostly higher, boosted by a sharp decline in oil prices and as exporters bounced back after the dollar crept up against regional currencies. In Japan, the Nikkei rose 30.09 points, or 0.27%, to close at 10,994.96. Earnings were the main focus in Tokyo, with Mazda Motor up 1.52% after it posted on Tuesday half-year profits that beat market expectations and raised its full-year forecast. Air-conditioner maker Daikin also gained after it hiked its fiscal 2004 profit forecast, while Seiko shares tanked almost 7% after it cut its full-year forecast due to sluggish sales in its precision business. On the economic front, Japan's current account surplus expanded to 9.3% in September to 1.7443 trillion yen, as exports remained buoyant. But the figure was 13.6% lower month-over-month on a seasonally-adjusted basis after a 25% gain in August.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up a touch, gaining 155.70 points, or 1.15%, to close at 13,672.37. Financials, utilities, and property names were trekking higher. But the market is rangebound ahead of the U.S. FOMC meeting later today.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P lost 3.49 points, or 0.04%, to close at 8,841.67.


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