Sun, Mar 20, 2005 - Page 10 News List

European stocks post slight gains

FLAT TRADE Renewed concern about oil prices and disappointing US consumer data countered the effect of the US dollar's recovery against the euro

AFP , LONDON

Leading European stock markets closed modestly higher on Friday, bolstered by a recovery of the dollar against the euro, but gains were limited by renewed worries about surging oil prices.

The London FTSE 100 index ended flat with a gain of 0.02 percent at 4,933.3 points, the Frankfurt DAX 30 rose 0.27 percent to 4,327.58 and the Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.46 percent to 4,050.77.

The DJ Euro STOXX 50 index of leading eurozone shares advanced 0.45 percent to 3,053.54 points.

The euro stood at US$1.3212.

On Wall Street, by London's close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 7.50 points lower at 10,618.80, while the tech-heavy NASDAQ composite index was down 5.70 points at 2,010.72, with disappointing US data also weighing on sentiment.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell to 92.9 earlier this month from 94.1 last month, the third straight monthly decline, to the lowest reading since November.

Economists were expecting the index to rise to about 94.6.

In London, the modest blue-chip gain was mainly created by strength in heavyweight oil issues in reaction to surging crude prices, despite OPEC's move on Thursday to hike output.

BP rose 1.16 percent to ?5.65, Shell added 0.52 percent at ?4.85, and BG Group took on 1.26 percent at ?4.22. French oil group Total climbed 1.16 percent to 182.70 euros in Paris.

Corus shot up 3.13 percent to ?0.5775, topping the blue-chip gainers board, on bullish broker comment following the Anglo-Dutch steel group's positive annual results a day earlier.

Credit Suisse First Boston reiterated its "outperform" stance and lifted its target price to ?0.70, saying confidence was returning to Corus after it delivered its first annual profit since its birth in 1999, helped by strong global demand for steel last year.

Altana was the big blue-chip winner in Frankfurt, jumping 4.02 percent to 49.19 euros after the pharma company said it aimed to make acquisitions to strengthen its chemicals division, as a prelude to a possible spinoff.

Helaba Trust analyst Thomas Brenning said that, previously, the prospect of Altana adding to its chemicals portfolio had been considered negative. But the company's latest statement on the issue has helped switch sentiment around.

"Acquisitions are not such a big problem if the company can convince the market that [the transaction] is a smart one," he said.

German stock exchange operator Deutsche Boerse gained 1.15 percent to 58.21 euros after a newspaper report sparked speculation it planned a full-scale buyback program, which would effectively end its interest in the London Stock Exchange.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Swiss SMI slipped 0.26 percent to 5,929.0 points. The Amsterdam AEX rose 0.40 percent to 369.84 points, the Brussels BEL-20 climbed 0.49 percent to 3,090.94, the Madrid IBEX-35 added 0.30 percent at 9,263.9 and the Milan SP/MIB advanced 0.72 percent to 31,868.0.

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