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European stock markets gained slightly on Thursday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 gained 10.30 points, or 0.22%, to close at 4787.70 despite the falls of three key FTSE 100 companies: AstraZeneca, BAE Systems and Tesco. Pharma heavyweight AstraZeneca suffered after the FDA condemned its newspaper advertisements as misleading. While aerospace firm BAE Systems closed down despite winning a 158.5 million pound Hawk trainer development deal yesterday from the UK's Ministry of Defence. Supermarket chain Tesco was weighed down by suspicions Christmas trading will be lighter than initially expected. Reuters got a boost after Morgan Stanley raised its price target. The battle for the London Stock Exchange continued this morning with The Daily Telegraph reporting Deutsche Borse will offer up to seven representatives from the City of London seats on a 21-member supervisory board if it pulls off a takeover. Separately, Euronext has hired the London teams of French bank BNP Paribas to advise it on a possible bid, according to French newspaper La Tribune.
Germany's DAX gained 10.34 points, or 0.24%, at 4251.62. Markets struggled to find any incentive so close to the Christmas weekend. The dollar weakened during the U.S. session after dealers sold the currency in the belief the U.S. administration will not act to counter the currency's fall. Most of the U.S. data came in largely as expected, with only durable goods ahead of expectations due to a surge in demand for capital goods including computers. Markets are now closed until Monday and with most of Europe not opening until Wednesday things are expected to remain pretty quiet. Among local stocks moving today, Lufthansa rose 0.96% on the dip in the oil price. BASF gained 1.26% following commencement of the first of 10 planned Nanjing chemical plants. Deutsche Boerse gained 0.7% after it revealed some of the sweeteners it is prepared to offer the board of London Stock Exchange in order to agree to being taken over.
In France, the CAC-40 gained 13.53 points , or 0.36%, to close at 3819.68. The CAC40 ended marginally higher on Thursday as U.S. markets clock up similarly modest gains. Locally, France Telecom is in talks to cut 1,200 jobs at its Spanish unit Uni2. Sanofi-Aventis shareholders approved the acquisition of Aventis at today's AGM. Altran surged 3.61% on news it has agreed new credit lines of 150 million euro. Mergers and acquisition activity continued: Euronext is said to have hired the London teams of BNP-Paribas to advise it on a possible bid for the London Stock Exchange, reported La Tribune. Saint Gobain is selling its remaining stake in Vivendi for around 114 million euro.
Asian markets were quiet on Thursday, with Japan's Nikkei closed for a holiday. The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong was almost flat as investors stayed away ahead of the long Christmas weekend break. The benchmark index gained 84.22 points, or 0.60%, to close at 14,235.30. The market will close at midday on Friday and reopen on Tuesday.
Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P lost 15.99 points, or 0.17%, to close at 9,235.18.