Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 10 News List

EU markets routed as pharmaceuticals suffer downgrades


European shares ended lower on Friday, pressured by further weakness in pharmaceutical companies, advertising company WPP Group's disappointing sales figures and figures showing slower-than-forecast US economic growth.

The UK's FTSE 100 index lost 0.39 percent to 6,160.90, with AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline both down for a second day after reporting disappointing product-pipeline news alongside earnings on Thursday and amid a slew of broker downgrades.

AstraZeneca's shares dropped 3.7 percent, while GlaxoSmithKline lost 2.8 percent.

The rout spread across Europe, with shares of French drug company Sanofi-Aventis down 1.5 percent and Germany's Bayer off by 2 percent.

The French CAC-40 index lost 0.69 percent to 5,396.03 and the German DAX Xetra 30 index declined 0.34 percent to 6,262.54.

US economic growth slowed sharply in the third quarter, increasing at a real seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.6 percent after a 2.6 percent increase in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said. Stocks stumbled in the US, adding to downbeat sentiment in Europe.

One healthcare stock that rose in Europe was Shire, which gained 2.2 percent after it swung to a profit in the third quarter. It's now forecasting annual revenue growth between 12 percent and 14 percent, up from earlier predictions of low double-digit revenue growth.

Danish pharmaceutical maker Novo Nordisk saw its shares slip 3.5 percent, however. The company said sales would increase at a slower rate next year.

Shares in French carmaker PSA Peugeot-Citroen advanced 2.7 percent despite issuing a fresh profit warning, blaming weak car sales in Europe. But third-quarter revenue, down 1.8 percent, wasn't as bad as forecast and the profit warning was largely anticipated.

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