Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 10 News List

European markets drift lower on last trading day

AFP , LONDON

European stock markets drifted lower on Friday in profit taking on the last trading day of a year marked by strong double-digit gains.

Many investors were away enjoying the festive holiday period, leading to a dearth of corporate news and very thin trading volumes, dealers said.

The London FTSE 100 index shed 0.35 percent to finish the year at 5,618.80 points and the Frankfurt DAX 30 closed 0.92 percent lower at 5,408.26. Both the British and German markets had shut early ahead of the New Year break.

In Paris, where traders worked a full day, the CAC 40 closed 1.21 percent lower at 4,715.23 points.

The DJ Euro STOXX 50 index of leading eurozone shares dropped 1.03 percent to 3,578.93 points.

Trading activity will again be scant tomorrow, as the holiday close of markets in London and the US will keep many investors from coming into their offices, dealers said.

In London, Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, forecast this year to be "prosperous" for investors, with the FTSE 100 hitting 6,000 points.

"The potential easing of [British] interest rates, continuing merger and acquisition activity and strong corporate earnings would all provide good reason for investors to get involved in 2006," he added.

London's FTSE 100 had ended on Thursday at 5,638.3 points -- the highest close since July 2001.

The index has risen by about 16.5 percent from a year earlier, while the DAX 30 has won around 27 percent and the CAC 40 some 24 percent.

In Paris, share prices plunged in profit taking after the benchmark CAC 40 index touched a high for the year on Thursday.

EADS shares tumbled 2.1 percent to 31.90 euros, but the shares still gained 49.1 percent on the year, largely due to a solid performance by its subsidiary Airbus.

Airbus said Friday that Bangkok Airlines has placed an order for six of its new A350 planes.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Swiss Market Index dropped 0.47 percent to 7,583.93. The Amsterdam AEX fell 0.93 percent to 436.78, the Brussels BEL-20 lost 0.73 percent at 3,549.25, the Madrid IBEX-35 slipped 0.41 percent to 10,733.9 and the Milan SP/MIB shed 0.70 percent at 35,704.0.

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