Markets & Finance

Europe Closes Higher


European stock markets were higher on Friday as Wall Street shook off early lethargy after Apple disclosed it was announcing a share split. In London, the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 gained 44.20 points, or 0.88%, to close at 5044.20. The FTSE closed above 5,000 on the back of a rise in steelmaker Corus and renewed M&A talk. Wall Street traded higher as news of Apple's stock split offsets Dell's poor revenue outlook. Cadbury led the FTSE100 on talk that it may be the subject of a bid, possibly from Kraft or Nestle. In the tobacco sector, Gallaher was up 1.91% on takeover speculation, with The Independent mentioning Japan Tobacco as a possible buyer. Manchester United has agreed to let Malcolm Glazer carry out due diligence ahead of his likely 800 million pound bid, the Financial Times reported. The Guardian said U.S. discount retailer Target has decided to build a declarable holding in supermarket group Sainsbury via market purchases. Marks & Spencer gained 2.07% after an upgrade from Lehman.

Germany's DAX gained 45.79 points, or 1.05%, to close at 4387.80. Frankfurt gained ground thanks to late-session inspiration from strong U.S. markets. Wall Street was lifted as an announcement of a share split at Apple - on the back of iPod-related boom - offset a disappointing report from Dell. Continental continued its recent rally reflecting investors appetite for the auto parts sector. Deutsche Boerse gained 2.30% as speculation mounted over the likely success of its bid for the LSE. Thyssen gained 1.32% along with peer Saltzgitter after both raised the prospect of higher prices for steel products. DaimlerChrysler underperformed following several negative broker comments and revisions of price targets.

In France, the CAC-40 gained 46.38 points, or 1.17%, to close at 4016.75, ending on a 32-month high after staging an eleventh hour sprint over the 4000 mark. Danone rose 2.69% after accompanying lower-than-expected net profit and operating results with consensus-beating organic sales growth of 7.8% and confirmation of fiscal 2005 targets: organic sales were up 5 to 7%, operating margin was up 20 to 40 basis points, and pre-exceptional earnings per share were up 10%. Publicis' slipped 1.47% after posting in line fiscal 2004 sales, but the group predicts that new business growth for 2005 will outpace the industry. Clarins fell 2.02% on a potential contraction in fiscal 2005 margins.

Asian markets were mostly closed on Friday. Japan's Nikkei was closed for National Foundation Day while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was closed for Chinese New Year.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 62.14 points, or 0.65%, to close at 9,558.50.


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