Markets & Finance

Asia Higher, Europe Mixed


European stock markets were mixed on Thursday. In London, the Financial Times Stock Exchange-100 gained 22.00 points, or 0.44%, to close at 5014.80, as AstraZeneca received positive comments from the FDA over its cholesterol-lowering treatment Crestor, while the oil and gas sector rose sharply, tracking a lift in the price of crude. Wall Street trades mixed, as the high oil price counteracts positive macro news. AstraZeneca was among the top performers after the FDA said its Crestor drug carries no greater risk than related drugs. CSFB said the FDA's updated position is the best Astra could have hoped for, and reduces U.S. regulatory risk substantially. GlaxoSmithKline also benefitted from the news, and from a positive note from CSFB on its forthcoming HPV vaccine. Oil stocks, including Shell and BP, gained as the oil price rises above $53.50 per barrel. Conversely, British Airways dipped on higher fuel cost worries.

In Germany, the DAX lost 20.16 points, or 0.46%, to close at 4373.27. Among movers today, Deutsche Telekom's fourth-quarter profit came in better than expected, also guiding up for fiscal 2005. The dividend is at the top end of November estimates, at 0.62 euro, while debt fell to 35.2 billion euro, vs. the 37.8 billion euro expected. Infineon slipped after Asian peer Hynix falls after missing targets and Merrill Lynch lowered its earnings per share forecasts for 2005/2006.

France's CAC-40 lost 1.37 points, or 0.03%, to close at 4061.3. The CAC40 ended a fairly choppy session barely changed on Thursday as Wall Street trades mixed, with the Dow off intra-day highs. Investors, initially encouraged by supportive economic data and retail sales, began to shy away from shares as WTI futures crept above $53.50 per barrel. In Paris, Thomson was the strongest percentage gainer among the CAC stocks after posting a narrower-than-expected fiscal year loss, after restructuring charges. Total also provided uplift, thanks to oil prices. Results aside, France Telecom joined a group of private equity funds, including Blackstone and CVC, in a bid for 51% of Cesky Telecom.

Asian markets were higher on Thursday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 42.75 points, or 0.36%, to close at 11,856.46, its highest since July 2004. Tokyo shares rose for the sixth consecutive trading day. Hotel operator Fujita Kanko spiked to a five-year high after Daiwa Research initiated the stock with a "1" recommendation. Car maker Fuji Heavy jumped after CSFB initiated the stock with an outperform rating. ABC-Mart also went up after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to outperform. Oil exploration company AOC jumped along with other oil issues on higher crude prices. U.S. crude oil futures closed above $53/barrel to a four-month high on Wednesday. On the downside, Fast Retailing dropped after the casual wear chain revised down its full-year forecasts due to slow sales.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index climbed 41.59 points, or 0.1%, to 13,864.7 about an hour before the close. Oil related names such as Petrochina rose on the back of strong oil prices. China Shipping Development inched up 0.69% to $7.25 (hong kong), after the shipping giant reported an 80% year-over-year rise in 2004 net profit. S&P Equtiy Research retains its hold on the share. Shanghai Forte Land is trading flat at $2.675 (hong kong) after the property developer said that it plans to buy a plot of land for 70.79 million yuan in China.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 64.19 points, or 0.66%, to close at 9,864.26.


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