Markets & Finance

Europe and Asia Lower


European stock markets were lower on Tuesday. In London, the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 lost 27.90 points, or 0.55%, to close at 5032.90. The FTSE ended lower with very mixed performances. Wall Street was trading lower, although IT stocks were higher on market talk of a possible good guidance from National Semiconductor. Locally, raw materials were in play, with Corus plunging 3.8% on news Japan's Nippon Steel is to pay more for raw materials. This, however, saved the day for BHP-Billiton and Rio Tinto. Soaring oil prices helped BP, but Shell ended lower after a disappointing report from Spain's Repsol. British Airways lost altitute as jet fuel skyrockets. In M&A news, Philip Green said he wishes to make clear that he is not considering a possible offer for Marks & Spencer. Among broker changes, Citigroup downgraded Hilton.

In Germany, the Dax lost 30.13 points, or 0.69%, to close at 4323.21, as markets took note of rising oil prices and a falling U.S. dollar. Of local note, Henkel's earnings per share figure is seen flat in fiscal 2005, assuming the dollar does not excessively depreciate. Deutsche Boerse reported fourth-quarter net profit up 7.5% to 54.6 million euro on sales of 364.4 million euro, vs. 354.1 million euro in fourth-quarter 2003. Meanwhile, pressure against the LSE bid mounts. Two dissident shareholders reportedly believe there is enough investor opposition to allow them to oust Deutsche Boerse's supervisory board when it comes up for re-election in May. ThyssenKrupp took a knock as Japanese peer Nippon Steel agrees to pay Brazil's Cia Vale do Rio Doce 71.5% more for iron ore in the year starting Apr. 1.

France's CAC-40 lost 20.29, or 0.50%, to close at 4002.33. European shares were off the worst levels of the session as Wall Street edged lower, but avoided the sell-off European investors had been expecting. Nonetheless, crude oil prices soaring above $50/barrel, a plunging US dollar and faltering US consumer confidence for February were a drag on major indices inspite of positive tech stock newsflow. French dollar earners suffered: Renault, PSA, Michelin, and EADS. Total dipped as Spanish peer Repsol posted disappointing numbers. Citigroup raised its weighting on U.S. semis to overweight and added Intel and Cisco to its recommended list, while Bank of America published a bullish report on Apple. STM and Alcatel were the top blue chip performers.

Asian markets were lower on Tuesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 lost 53.31 points, or 0.46%, to close at 11,597.71. Trading remained lackluster, as most investors stayed sidelined due to a lack of fresh trading leads. Tokyo Steel tumbled 4.36% after the electric furnace producer announced a price reduction for some of its products. Citizen Watch lost 3.44% following the cut of its full-year profit as a result of sluggish demand for mobile phone parts and weak sales of watch movements. On the upside, Fujitsu inched up 1.05% after the firm said that it would make 95.8 billion yen one-off profit from the sale of shares of industrial robot maker Fanuc and chip equipment maker Advantest.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng lost 21.13 points, or 0.15%, to close at 14,090.52. Shares traded weak despite the territory recorded a fresh three-year low in its unemployment rate for Nov. 2004 to Jan. 2005. Property plays lost support despite the strong biddings at the government land auction today. Sino Land slid 2.8% after it won the Kowloon Bay commercial site for $1.82 billion (hong kong), tripling the starting price.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P lost 41.84 points, or 0.43%, to close at 9,640.47.


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