Markets & Finance

Asia Closes Lower


European stock markets were higher on Thursday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose 5.50 points to 5009.20 as U.K. April industrial production jumped more than expected 0.9% after skidding 1.2% in March. Furthermore, the Bank of England left its key rates unchanged at today's meeting. Yields on 10-year gilts rose to 4.22% from 4.20% yesterday and sterling fell to $1.8197 on news. 52 FTSE stocks fell, 44 rose on turnover of 1,424,000,000 shares. July Brent crude oil futures rose. Halfords Group rose after reporting its fiscal year net almost tripled. Alba plunged after reporting its fiscal year net fell 35%. William Morrison Supermarkets, faced with lower earnings, fell as Goldman Sachs urged caution on stock.

In Germany, the Dax Index rose 5.46 points to 4562.75 after German Chancellor Schroeder said he will stick to plans to call and lose a confidence vote in parliament on July 1 in order to bring forward national election by one year. The market ignored a report German exports unexpectedly fell 0.4% after rising a revised 1.7%. Imports rose 3.8%. 16 DAX stocks fell, 13 rose on turnover of 85,294,000 shares. Yields on 10-year Bunds fell to 3.11% from 3.12% yesterday. The euro fell to $1.2224. Volkswagen rose after denying report it would sell convertible bond. HVB fell after some board members said they wanted guarantees before voting for merger with UniCredito Italiano. MLP rose after Deutsche Bank raised its rating on the stock.

France's CAC 40 fell 17.64 points to 4153.71 level as oil prices rose. 24 CAC stocks fell, 15 rose on turnover of 90,292,000 shares. Yields of 10-year bonds fell to 3.12% from 3.13% yesterday. Arcelor fell after industry executive said he sees steel demand stagnating. Carrefour fell as government threatened to lower prices in the super stores. Havas rose after company said U.S. sales on par with those of year ago. Pierre & Vacances fell after company cut its full year earnings estimate.

Asian markets were lower on Thursday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 sank 120.15 points, or 1.07%, to 11,160.88. Stocks tumbled in Tokyo as investors took some money off the table ahead of U.S. Fed Chairman Greenspan's testimony to Congress this morning, and Intel's mid-quarter update after the close on Wall Street. The broader TOPIX index dropped 9.79 points, or 0.9%, to 1138.75. Losses in exporters such as Toyota Motor and Matsushita Electric led the market lower. Market breadth on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange was 1067-446 negative. Volume was a bit below the recent average.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed at 13,898.31, off a marginal 0.24 points. The index held its ground, closing flat on a percentage basis. The broader market showed mild strength, with advancers outpacing decliners by 16 to 12. Volume rose. The market was in a holding pattern ahead of U.S. Fed Chairman Greenspan's comments today. Rate-sensitive stocks in Hong Kong have, to some extent, digested prospects of higher rates related to an expected revaluation of the Hong Kong dollar. This offset concern over any potentially hawkish comments from Greenspan and the impact on rates locally. Banking stocks HSBC Holdings and Hang Seng Bank rose but there was little sector movement otherwise, with property and telco plays mixed.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 57.84 points, or 0.60%, to close at 9,765.72


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