Markets & Finance

European Indexes Close Higher


From Standard & Poor's European MarketScope

European indexes ended higher Wednesday with strong performances in the tech and financial sectors. The Federal Reserve's March meeting minutes eased worries about rising interest rates. Furthermore, today's US CPI data was in-line with expectations at 0.4%, showing that inflation is indeed on the tame side. However, the core CPI reading was 1 pp higher than expected, putting the brakes on New York's rally. Crude prices scaled new records as Brent Crude crossed all-time high of US$73/barrel and EIA inventories showed a surprise draw in crude stocks.

Germany: The Xetra-Dax index (+1.44%) closed solidly higher on Wednesday. In Frankfurt, all stocks in the Dax ended higher, bar one, led by MAN (+5.57%) after Cheuvreux reinitiated coverage on the stock with an outperform rating. The broker is positive about the group becoming a pure play truck manufacturer. Broker rating action also helped to boost Siemens (SI) (+3.54%) and ThyssenKrupp (+4.08%).

Elsewhere, Schering's (SHR)(+0.26%) first quarter 2006 prelims came in ahead of expectations, with sales 16% higher year-over-year at ??1.41 billion and net income up 21% to ??174 million. At its AGM Wednesday, Munich Re (+0.53%) said it is on track to achieve its 2006 net profit goal of ??2.6 billion - ??2.8 billion.

Infineon (IFX)(+3.31%) moved higher following Texas Instruments' (TXN)strong quarterly results. The German chipmaker is set to release its own earnings on 26 April. Until then, SAP (SAP)(+1.74%) will be in focus; its first quarter 2006 results come out Thursday.

UK:The FTSE index ended the day at a five-year high, after it briefly touched the 6,100-point mark. The rise was boosted by banking stocks. The BoE voted 7-1 for steady interest rates. In London, the banking sector led the blue-chip index - Amvescap (+2.56%), HBOS (+1.7%). Index leader WPP (+4.39%) gained on a positive Citigroup note ahead of first quarter figures on Friday. Its unit O&M bagged J&J's (JNJ) Beijing Olympic contract.

On the earnings side, AB Foods (-6.47%) posted a 2% fall in first half pretax profit and said it saw reduced earnings after tax in second half. Hanson (+4.25%) surged on hopes of a revival in the US housing market. British Energy (+2.17%) unveiled year nuclear output at 60.4 TWh.

Regus (+3.51%) took control of Regus UK. Imperial Tobacco (ITY)(+4.09%) benefited after JP Morgan raised its target price, saying there was a higher chance of a merger with Altadis. Reed Elsevier (-1.38%) fell after the European Commission said scientific research funded by European taxpayers should be free online.

France: The surprise draw in crude stocks prompted a last-minute rally on the CAC 40. The index closed on up 1.22%, with gainers outnumbering losers by 36-2. In Paris, financials were the largest contributor to the index rise, with techs also outperforming.

Lafarge (LR)(+3.84%) was the largest percent gainer after Moody's affirmed its senior debt rating. Accor (+2.69%) rose on reports that it was bidding to build and manage hotels for Indian Railways. Rhodia (+4.65%) surged as prices for CO2 emission certificates reached record levels.

Soitec (+0.62%) posted a 89.2% increase in fiscal year sales. Sacyr vowed to continue discussions with Eiffage (-0.89%) after the French company rejected all the supervisory board members put forward by its Spanish peer. L'Oreal (+1.59%) reports first quarter sales Wednesday.

Elsewhere: Spain's Ibex 35 ended Wednesday's session on a strong note, amid positive performances from Telefonica (TEF) and the major banks.

Piazza Affari ended the session higher on Wednesday, with financials and energy stocks building on earlier gains.


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