Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 10 News List

European markets slightly higher in shortened trading

AFP , LONDON

European stock markets closed modestly higher in shortened trading hours on Friday after a strong pre-Christmas showing by Wall Street.

The London FTSE 100 index closed up 0.22 percent to 4,798.10 points, while in Paris the CAC 40 edged up 0.08 percent to 3,822.76.

The Frankfurt DAX 30 and the DJ Euro STOXX 50 index of leading eurozone shares were shut on Friday. The DAX 30 closed up 0.24 percent at 4,251.62 points on Thursday and the DJ Euro STOXX 50 finished 0.45 percent higher at 2,950.92 points.

The euro stood at US$1.3537 after soaring to an all-time peak of US$1.3549 in European foreign exchange trading earlier on Friday.

"The shortened week next week will also ensure that trading volumes will be minimal and markets will only again start trading in earnest on Jan. 4," analysts at Barclays Private Clients said.

"The equity mood, however, is discernibly festive and many commentators are looking forward to a bumper year in 2005," they said.

Wall Street, which was not due to open on Friday, continued a winning streak on Thursday despite a slew of lackluster economic news, including a sharp slump in US new home sales, which pushed the dollar to record lows against the euro.

Blue chip gains were helped by cooler crude oil prices, but some analysts cautioned that stocks could reverse course going into the new year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.10 percent at 10,827.12 points, its best closing level since June 2001.

The tech-heavy NASDAQ rose 0.17 percent to 2,160.62 points and the broad-market Standard and Poor's 500 index edged up 0.05 percent to 1,210.13.

In Europe, corporate news flow was extremely thin, leaving little to inspire blue-chip investors.

HSBC reversed early gains, losing 0.23 percent to £8.845 following news that the global banking giant has agreed to buy Korea First Bank in a deal that will put HSBC in competition with its US rival Citigroup in the world's 11th largest economy.

Elsewhere, British defense issues weakened after the Financial Times reported a US threat to withhold military technology as the Pentagon decried EU plans to lift an embargo imposed on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Smiths Group fell 0.61 percent to £8.125 and BAE Systems lost 0.33 percent to £2.30.

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