Markets & Finance

European Indexes Close Higher


European indexes climbed in afternoon trading, boosted by strong trading on Wall Street. U.S. shares rose on strong November sales reports from retailers, including Wal-Mart. And U.S. economic data signaled that inflation might be under control. Meanwhile, the continent's central bank raised interest rates by 25 basis points in a rare but widely expected move. Bank president Jean Claude Trichet indicated that the raise was just a one-off.

France: The CAC 40 index (+1.49%) rallied near year highs with a positive breadth of 36-4. In Paris, Total (TOT

)(+2.50%) led advancers. Carmakers Renault (+3.39%) and Peugeot (+2.15%) shrugged off declines in car sales of 13.2% and 3.3% respectively in November; analysts said figures were not as bad as they feared. Technology stocks got a lift from an upbeat trading update by Fairchild Semiconductors; peer Cap Gemini (+2.56%) rose.

Also, Alcatel (ALA

) (+2.76%) and STMicroelectronics (STM

) (+3.54%) spoke to investors at a CSFB Technology conference in Phoenix. Mobile operators Vivendi Universal (V

) (+2.72%), France Telecom (FTE

) (+1.60%) and Bouygues (+0.89%) said they would appeal against a record €534 million fine for market collusion.

United Kingdom: The FTSE 100 index (+1.16%) ended higher. Heavyweights BP (BP

)(+2.44%) and Vodafone (VOD

)(+0.8%) rebounded after recent weakness, as rising oil prices and M&A momentum continued to underpin the market. HSBC (+1.13%) issued a solid trading update and said third quarter pretax profit was higher in all customer groups. Punch Taverns (+3.73%) announced the acquisition of rival Spirit for £2.679 billion. Prudential (PUK

) (-0.47%) made a £973 million offer for Egg (+13.9%) minorities, swapping 0.2237 Prudential share for each share. The bid values Egg at 118p per share.

An oncology report from Glaxo (GSK

) (+1.47%) was received positively. AWG (+2.4%) said first half turnover rose 6.6% to £889.6 million, operating profit was up 28.8% to £192.1 million, ahead of estimates. Old Mutual (+1.16%) said it was lowering the acceptance level required for its Skandia bid. United Utilities (-0.15%) reported in-line earnings, and will speed up disposal of telecoms unit. An MFI (+2.34%) update showed the poor state of the UK retail market. The company said operating profit will be at the low end of market estimates. Kingfisher (-0.89%) suffered a downgrade from JP Morgan but Corus (CGA

)(+6.28%) rose on the back of a slew of upgrades.

Germany: The Xetra-Dax index also closed positively. In Frankfurt, financials fared especially well: Munich Re (+5.19%), Allianz (AZ

) (+1.91%), Deutsche Bank (DB

) (+1.58%). Munich Re also got a boost from market talk that it is considering placing its 4.7% in Allianz. ThyssenKrupp (+0.23%) posted pretax profit of €1.8 billion, a tad higher than market estimates of around €1.74 billion. Revenues came in at €42.1 billion, in line with estimates. The steelmaker said it is on track to meet its mid-term €50 billion revenue target and forecast fiscal 2006 pretax profit of around €1.5 billion, ex items. It plans a €0.80 dividend.

Meanwhile, MediGene jumped 5.89% thanks to the FDA application acceptance for polyphenon E ointment, which is used to treat genital warts. Porsche (+2.06%) sped along thanks to its strongest ever November sales. In addition, the automotive firm sold its roof business to Magna for €170 million to focus on core businesses.

Elsewhere: Nordic stocks posted strong gains. Newsflow focused on analyst presentations at several groups, with Nokia's (NOK

)(+0.72%) CMD in New York taking centre stage. Analysts feared that the Finnish group may adjust or push-out margin targets for the devices and networks businesses.

The SMI (+1.75%) settled firmly above the 7,500 mark, supported by better-than-expected Swiss third quarter GDP. Among SMI stocks, Swiss Life (+4.28%) led the gainers as it confirmed its goal of posting a net profit of CHF1 billion by 2008 and a return on equity of over 10%. Prepared by Zaida Espana, Valerie Vidal, Michael Sanderson, Mariella Mongio, Alexander Wisch, Holly Cook, Emma Stevenson, Pawan Girglani, Julien Manrique, and Rocio Opazo-Aniotz (Standard & Poor's); Alex Halperin (BusinessWeek Online)


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