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European stock markets were lower on Monday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 lost 13.40 points, or 0.28%, to close at 4840.70. The FTSE closed lower today as the market reacted negatively to Standard Chartered's 1 billion pound share sale to fund its $3.3 billion acquisition of Korea First Bank. The U.S. markets traded a bit higher ahead of a raft of earnings reports later today. At home, Barclays gained 1.09% after a weekend newspaper report said it held talks with U.S. rival Wells Fargo about a potential merger. BSkyB also moved up 1.2% on talk it added 170,000 new subscribers in the three months to the end of December. Among broker changes, Reuters rose .93% on a Citigroup target price lift while Allied Domecq dropped 1.49% on a Deutsche Bank downgrade. easyJet led airline stocks after reporting a 28% rise in December passenger growth, while British Airways was marked higher after it posted solid figures last week.
In Germany, the DAX lost 9.03 points, or 0.21%, to close at 4307.37. The Xetra DAX ended Monday's session on the downside as some traders decided to take profits. Wall Street moved higher as the jump in February WTI crude oil had a muted impact on the broader market but boosted energy stocks. The up-tick in oil caused by weekend storms in the North Sea, which resulted in the halting of some production, was at the forefront for dealers' minds. Also, there is a growing belief among some that prices will continue to rise ahead of the OPEC meeting and Iraq elections scheduled for Jan. 30. Of local note, Deutsche Telekom fell 0.4% along with European peers after Morgan Stanley downgraded the sector and Deutch Telekom to underweight. BMW slipped after it said it will offer discount financing on some cars in Germany. VW moved 0.58% higher as the CEO said results will improve as the group continues its ForMotion cost cutting programme. Schering rebounded 0.37% from Friday's weakness after the FDA asked for more info regarding its Bonefos drug. Bayer pared losses after saying it had bought back Levitra's co-promotional rights in some regions from the UK's GSK for 208 million euro. The move was not seen as necessarily improving the group's healthcare product portfolio. Data-wise, Germany's November current account came in better at 8.5 billion euro, vs. an estimated 6.3 billion euro.
France's CAC-40 lost 0.14 points to close at 3877.82 The benchmark index pared losses in afternoon trade and ended flat as U.S. markets opened higher. Higher-than-expected wholesale inventories for November boosted sentiment, but rallying crude prices capped gains. WTI futures added $1.49 to $46.92 as bad weather disrupted production in the North Sea. Locally, the CAC40 was mainly hit by France Telecom, following a sector downgrade from Morgan Stanley. The fall was compensated by good progress from AXA and EADS thanks to broker upgrades and positive newsflow. It was a stock-picker's market today as overall sentiment remained one of caution. AXA was the day's rising star as Merrill upgraded to buy from neutral, setting a price target of 21.7 euro. EADS added to last week's advance on news it beat Boeing to $1 billion euro tanker deal. Sanofi gained 0.5% on news it is targeting 30 billion euro sales in 2005.
Asian markets were lower on Monday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei index was closed for "Coming-of-Age" day.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Sent lost 43.47 points, or 0.32%, to close at 13,531.39. Hong Kong shares flat amid fears that a stronger U.S. dollar may lead to an outflow of funds. Property plays went further down on interest rate lift concerns. Standard Chartered, suspended from trade today in Hong Kong, said it will buy Korea First Bank for $3.3 billion in cash. The acquisition is expected to be completed by end-April and Standard Chartered said it would finance part of the deal via a 1 billion pound share placing.
Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 16.85 points, or 0.19%, to close at 9,023.07.