Markets & Finance

Europe and Asia Flat


European stock markets closed mostly flat but slightly higher on Tuesday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 gained 1.90 points, or 0.04%, to close at 4733.00, with the main support coming from the mining and metals sector. Rio Tinto and BHP-Billiton remained key gainers on a TEX report that they are both planning record increases in iron ore prices in 2005. Antofagasta also shone on good copper pricing. Financials lagged, following weak house pricing data. The RICS House Price Balance fell for the seventh straight month, to -48 from -40 in October. Mergers and acquisition newsflow remained. The Financial Time's Lex column wrote that Altadis was looking pricey as a takeover target, but its tax savings might make it attractive were it to be the legal acquirer. The newspaper argued, however, a merger with Imperial Tobacco under such terms would be very complex.

In Germany, the DAX gained 2.84 points, or 0.07%, to close at 4214.39, almost unchanged on the day having spent much of the session treading water. The market barely reacted to the stronger tone to U.S. markets which were up on solid banking results from Bear Stearns and Morgan Stanley. The key today was how Bayer would react following news the U.S. National Institutes of Health called a halt to an Alzheimer's prevention study of Pfizer's Celebrex painkiller and the generic naproxen drug because of a heart risk. Bayer sells naproxen as Aleve. As it was, analysts saw limited risk to Bayer's earnings as naproxen makes up only a small part of its pharma portfolio. Altana paced the rest of the Dax with dealers predicting the company's stomach drug Pantoprazol might profit in the event of rival drugs having to be pulled from chemists shelves. Elsewhere, car stocks and in particular DaimlerChrysler traded up 1.0% on positive sentiment from Toyota after the Japanese auto giant raised its global production targets by 8%. Utilities E.ON and RWE shrugged off news that Germany's Federal Cartels Office will start an investigation into whether any of the gas suppliers raised prices more than necessary following the jump in oil prices.

France's CAC-40 gained 5.99 points, or 0.16%, to close at 3770.03l. The CAC40 managed to closed in positive territory as Wall Street moved higher, lifted by better-than-expected quarterly results from Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns, a recovery from Pfizer and the spin-off of IAC/InetrActive's unit Expedia. Locally, France Telecom lost ground on reports it was interested in buying Italian telecom Wind. The group also announced it sold some its cable business for 351 million euro. LVMH outperformed on good Swiss watch export data for November. Carrefour was in the spotlight on speculation it might be considering a bid for UK's Sainsbury. Also in mergers and acquisitions news, the Financial Times's Lex column wrote Altadis was looking pricey as a takeover target, but that Spanish tax savings might make it attractive.

Asian markets were mixed on Tuesdaym as the Nikkei added 22.50 points, or 0.2%, to close at 11125.92. Toyota Motor advanced 0.5%, buoyed by news that it expects global sales in 2005 to rise 7% to a record 8.03 million vehicles while Mitsui Trust extended gains on the back of news that it will purchase a rival security certificate management firm. Mizuho Financial jumped 2.58% after CSFB upgraded the stock to outperform from underperform while Trend Micro leapt after inking a deal to supply antivirus scanning for Microsoft's Hotmail email service.

In Hong Kong, investors cashed in profits after yesterday's rally. The Hang Seng Index was flat after yesterday's 1.6% jump. The benchmark dropped 33.25 points, or 0.23%, to close at 14,180.79. TCL Communication, China's number two cellphone maker, sank after it said it may post a fourth-quarter loss.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 60.54 points, or 0.66%, to close at 9,237.48.


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