Markets & Finance

Asia, Europe Mixed


European stock markets were mixed on Wednesday. In London, the Financial Times Stock Exchange-100 lost 7.70 points, or 0.15%, to close at 4992.80. The FTSE pared losses in late trade thanks to good trading on Wall Street, but the late stimulus was not enough to tip the index onto positive ground. Energy stocks supported the DJIA as capacity at US refineries fell to a 4-month low. Meanwhile, Greenspan called for urgent measures to curb current deficit. In London, the effect of several companies trading ex-dividend weighed: Hilton, ICI, BHP Billiton, and Diageo. Hedge fund Man Group topped the leaderboard after its AHL fund rose 1.3% last week. Among companies reporting, miner XStrata posted fiscal year net profit of $1.088 billion, vs. the consensus of $995 million, but attention was on a WMC bid.

In Germany, the Dax was up 9.81 points, or 0.22%, to close at 4393.43, as US stocks edge higher after Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said in his testimony to the House Budget Committee that measures are necessary to deal with the country's huge deficit. On the macro data front, German retail sales rose by the most in seven months in January as tax cuts boost incomes and consumer confidence. Sales were 2.1% higher versus a forecast gain of 0.6%. Among stocks moving today, Bayer released fourth-quarter net profit rising to 41 million euro as demand for chemicals improves. The headline number is lower than forecast, but the 0.55 euro dividend provided some cheer. Auto manufacturers digest U.S. February car sales data. BMW stood at the top of the class after showing sales rose 10% while those of Porsche rose 8%. DaimlerChrysler sales were 5.5% higher while VW's declined by 13%.

France's CAC-40 gained 7.74 points, or 0.19%, to close at 4062.72. French stocks rebounded in the late-afternoon as Wall Street staged a big recovery as Fed Chairman Greenspan answered questions from House Budget Committee. At home, Sanofi-Aventis remained a talking point. Today the group and Pfizer said that the U.S. FDA had accepted Exubera (inhaled dry powder form of insulin) for NDA filing. UBS and ING joined the ranks of brokers to hike their targets on the stock, yesterday the company disclosed that fiscal 2004 sales had far outpaced industry growth and that integration plans are ahead of schedule.

Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 33.18 points, or 0.28%, to close at 11,813.71, hitting another new eight-month high. Tracking Wall Street's gains overnight, shares in Tokyo continued to rise on Wednesday for the fifth consecutive trading day. Kurita Water jumped after Deutsche Bank upgraded the water treatment equipment maker to buy. Faith surged after the company announced it will ally with South Korean online game developer Gravity Co. Sumitomo Titanium went up after the metal maker upped its annual dividend forecast to 45 yen per share from 30 yen per share. Seikagaku Corp spiked 12.7% to 1,950 yen after the drug maker raised its annual dividend forecast to 30 yen from 20 yen per share. On the downside, Aeon fell after the retailer cut its earnings forecast, citing falling prices and slower sales.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index lost 144.9 points, or 1.03%, to 13916.22 about an hour before the closing. Investors largely ignored news that unpopular Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa had resigned. Sinopec deepened its early losses and tumbled 4.26% to $3.375 (hong kong), after U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Co announced that it sold its stake in the oil giant for $1.37 billion. Index heavyweight HSBC Holdings remained weak, and inched down 1.53% to $128.5 (hong kong).

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 71.45 points, or 0.73%, to close at 9,799.48.


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