Markets & Finance

Europe Closes Lower


European stock markets were lower on Monday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index fell 17.3 points, or 0.35%, to 4896.7. Market weakness stemmed from a rise north of $58 in benchmark crude oil. OPEC signaled it would look at a second output rise to trim the rally. Investors cheered BP after the oil giant said overall production in first quarter 2005 is expected to be around 4.090 million barrels and added it will book a $1.1 billion gain on disposals in the first quarter. Elsewhere BHP Billiton dropped following reports China's steel mills have rejected the company's demand to pay additional premiums on iron ore purchases. Burren Energy announced a lift in annual profits to 48.5 million pounds and said the outlook for 2005 is good.

In Germany, the DAX index sank 32.14 points, or 0.74%, to 4341.39. An early rise in crude oil above $58 hit Wall Street in morning trading. Of local note, VW paced its peers after posting a 22% fall in U.S. March sales. BMW sales declined 5% ahead of new models, while DaimlerChrysler eased after posting a 7% rise in sales but still feeling the fall-out from last week's announcement of restructuring costs for its Smart division. Altana came off lows after press reports said it is considering spinning off its chemicals unit after a planned acquisition rumoured to be worth around 750 million euro to 1 billion euro. Infineon said problems at Siemens' mobile unit are having a knock-on effect after it lost market share. CFO Fischl reiterated guidance for positive EBIT this year.

France's CAC 40 lost 27.76 points, or 0.68%, to close at 4052.32, piggybacking morning losses on Wall Street. In Paris, corporate news was light. Sanofi-Aventis slipped after Barr Pharma disclosed that the New Jersey District Court has granted summary judgment stating that it did not infringe three other Allegra-D patents held by Aventis. EADS fell as US deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, stood his ground regarding the subsidies dispute, adding there is little manoeuvre in the negotiations between Airbus and Boeing ahead of the Apr. 11 deadline.

Asian markets were mixed on Monday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 lost 56.09 points, or 0.48%, to close at 11,667.54, as sentiment was weighed down by a surge in oil prices. U.S. crude futures brushed a record $57.7 a barrel on Friday after Goldman Sachs said late last week that it sees a "super spike period" in the oil market where crude could hit $105 a barrel. Tech stocks slid, with Sony Corp and Kyocera Corp losing ground. Financials fell under selling pressure, with Mizuho and Sumitomo Mitsui edging down. But the index's decline was limited by strong gains stocks such as Nippon Oil and Showa Shell. Mitsubishi Chemical climbed after it raised its net profit estimate by 35% to a record 54 billion yen for the year ended Mar. 31 due to higher prices for chemical products.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng gained 22.06 points, or 0.16%, to close at 13,513.41.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P lost 7.73 points, or 0.08%, to close at 9,630.90.


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