Germany's DAX Index fell 5.12 to 4906.05, amid worries that Sunday's vote will force a grand coalition between the parties of Chancellor Schroeder and challenger Anna Merkel, who lost much of the lead she held in polls previously. 16 DAX stocks fell and 14 rose on turnover of 92,085,828 shares. Eckart & Ziegler rose on plans to buy the worldwide rights and production know-how for a rheumatism drug SpondylAT(R). Hoeft & Wessel was higher after Deutsche Bahn ordered its ticketing machines. Intertainment skidded on news HVB Group has filed a 10 million euros suit against company. Salzgitter rose after the CFO said the company was preparing a takeover defense strategy. SGL Carbon rose on increased demand for its graphite electrodes.
In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index rose 30.70 to 5378.10. U.K. August retail sales were unchanged because of a slide in food sales, but all other sectors were strong and thus the report is stronger than it looks. 55 FTSE stocks fell and 43 rose on turnover of 1,556,000,000 shares. Among major companies, 0sterling was up at $1.8053. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto rose after UBS raised its ratings on the shares to "buy" from "neutral". Aggreko soared after the company said its new business after Hurricane Katrina may swell sales by as much as $13 million. CSR climbed after the company said its third quarter earnings will beat expectations. Heywood Williams Group rose on improved results.
France's CAC 40 rose 8.96 to 4479.39 as oil prices eased. Mixed U.S. economic data kept some traders on the sidelines. 240 CAC stocks rose and 12 fell on turnover of 87,717,000 shares. Alain Afflelou rose on increased first quarter sales. Hermes International was up after the company said its first half sales rose 12%. Vallourec rose after reporting that its first half earnings surged. Dassault Aviation fell as its first half earnings fell 20%.
The Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 152.53 points (1.19%) to 12,986.78. Stocks rallied on the back of ongoing optimism toward the country's economic growth. Along with strong demand locally, foreign buying interest has firmed on the back of the reform-minded Prime Minister Koizumi's election win Sunday and signs of improvement in Japan's economy.
But stocks in Hong Kong fell earlier Thursday, as losses on Wall Street and a jump in crude oil above $65 a barrel hurt sentiment. Many expect cautious trading in Hong Kong until the September 20 Federal Open Market Committee meeting in the U.S. Federal Reserve monetary policy tends to influence rates in Hong Kong.
In Seoul, stocks finished slightly lower as the KOSPI index pulled back in late trading from an all-time high reached earlier in the session. Major tech player Samsung Electronics fell 1% on the back of a downgrade by JP Morgan's downgrade. Automakers Hyundai Motor (+2.16%) and Kia Motors (+0.53%) climbed on expectation of growing sales both at home and abroad. The steel giant POSCO added 2.3% on a UBS upgrade.