European stock markets ended higher on Friday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 gained 17 points, or 0.36%, to close at 4793.90. BSkyB (+3.34%) reported net direct-to-home subscriber growth of 62,000 in the first quarter for a total of 7.417 million subscribers, beating market expectations, and total revenue increased by 11% to 940 million pounds. BSkyB reiterated it remains on track to achieve its target of 8 million direct-to-home subscribers by December 2005. The company's results triggered rises elsewhere in the media sector, with WPP, ITV, Pearson, and United Business Media all higher.
In Germany, the DAX gained 12.54 points, or 0.30%, to close at 4143.35, with dealers reported buying interest among financials, telecoms, and other high-beta stocks, with Allianz, Deutsche Telecom, and Bayer leading. Allianz gained 2.32% after it released better-than-expected results showing that earnings fell less than expected after this summer's hurricane damage claims caused the insurance giant to cut earnings forecasts by 200 million euro. Net income only fell 8% to 539 million euro, vs. an expected decline to 415 million euro. The company also said Dresdner Bank, which piled up losses of over 2.7 billion euro during the last couple of years, will break even this year following heavy reorganisation at the unit. Deutsche Telecom continued yesterday's rally, gaining 1.02%. Chemical-giant Bayer benefited from discovery of rust fungus on soya plants in Louisiana, which threatens crops valued at $17.8 billion. Bayer produces one of the six fungicides approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
France's CAC-40 gained 1.32 points, or 0.03%, to close at 3835.11, with advances in France Telecom and Axa offseting losses in Total and BNPP. Thales rose 5.21%, and was unfazed by the government's attempt to dismiss reports that it is in favour of a merger with EADS. The latter is sunk by concerns that such a tie-up would not offer interesting synergies. France Telecom extended yesterday's advances as German unit Mobilcom advanced on strong third-quarter core earnings. STM was upbeat on reports that demand for chips is growing. In addition, yesterday afternoon Italy's Finmeccanica approved the sale of a 10.3% stake in the chipmaker to Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.
Asian markets trended higher on Friday, boosted by a rally on Wall Street overnight and lower oil prices. Japan's Nikkei average gained 173.06 points, or 1.6%, to 11019.98, with financials trending higher. Investors ignored the weaker-than-expected Japanese GDP data of a 0.1% real growth in July-September quarter due to mixed opinions on economic outlook. Mizuho Financial rose 1.67% while Sumitomo Bank added 1.83%. Matsushita Electric leapt almost 3% after a local report said the Tokyo customs office agreed to Matsushita's request that Japan halt imports of plasma-display panels made by LG Electronics.
In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 159.95 points, or 1.17%, to close at 13,784.46, tracking gains seen in the U.S.
Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 10.20 points, or 0.12%, to close at 8,896.37.