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Banks Boost Canada Stocks

Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX soared 100.52 points, or 1.16%, to 8,737.84., led by gains in Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and EnCana Corp. Royal Group Technologies plunged on news of a police investigation into the company's finances.

European stock markets managed to finish with small gains on Thursday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index ended 7.1 points higher, or 0.16%, to 4,514.60, as J.P. Morgan Chase improved its recommendations for the oil industry, and shares of Shell Transport (SC ) and BP (BP ) rose. "Traders are still a bit restrained by reports that British Consumer Confidence fell after the recent Bank of England rate hike, and February factory orders fell," reports MarketScope.

In Paris, the CAC 40 added 11.86 points, or 0.32%, to 3,714.49, as Prime Minister Raffarin urged the European Central Bank to cut interest rates to bolster the economy, and cool off a strong euro that's stifling exports. A survey shows that French manufacturing confidence rose to a 33-month high in February.

Germany's DAX index gained 12.47 points, or 0.31%, to 4,007.81, amid comments from Chancellor Schroeder that a further rise in the euro could cause the economy to stall. Shares of Metro AG were higher after Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the stock to overweight from equal weight.

Asian markets finished higher on Thursday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index gained 156.56 points points, or 1.47%, to 10,815.29. Strength in the U.S. dollar fueled gains in the Nikkei, reports S&P's MarketScope, especially among Japanese exporters.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 75.17 points, or 0.55%, to 13,674.64.

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