European stock markets were higher on Thursday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 gained 18.30 points, or 0.38%, to close at 4824.30. Strength in mining stocks and pharmaceuticals helped pushed the index higher. Mining stocks climbed thanks to forecasts of a continued recovery in base metal prices. Stocks of note in the session included Insurer Royal Sun Alliance, up 2.78% on top of yesterday's gains, fueled by expectations for a strong start to the year for the UK life sector. Rolls Royce gained 3.4% on talk of Cazenove reiterating its outperform in a note today. British Airways gained 4.56% after the company reported that December traffic, measured in Revenue Passenger kilometers (RPK), rose 3.2% year-over-year.
Germany's DAX gained 42.70 points, or 1.00%, to close at 4300.94. The DAX finished higher helped by gains in VW which was up 2.98% on the day after CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder said the company reached its 2004 operating target and aims to boost 2005 operating profit. Continental gained 1.04% after a Merrill Lynch upgrade. Allianz was up 1.01% on the coat-tails of U.S. insurance giant AIG's huge dividend increase announced yesterday. The markets await U.S. Employment data on Friday.
In France, the CAC-40 gained 27.12 points, or 0.71%, to close at 3856.48. Total gained 0.76%, helped by a rise in crude oil prices after OPEC announced that it will cut production. EADS was up 2.96%, it was the best performer in the CAC, the company attracted buyers on news that Airbus delivered more planes than Boeing for the second straight year. Ubisoft fell 1.85% on profit-taking spurred by news that Vivendi is unlikely to pursue a merger.
Asian markets were mixed on Thursday. Japan shares edged higher on bargain-hunting on Thursday, with the benchmark Nikkei average gaining 54.74 points, or 0.48%, to close at at 11492.26. But market sentiment remained mixed as investors waited for U.S. jobs data expected on Friday. Shipping and construction names trended higher, while chip stocks mirrored losses is U.S. and regional peers. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp sank 1.31% on news that the Japanese government plans to sell 1.12 million shares of the company by the end of the fiscal year of 2005/2006.
In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 52.32 points, or 0.38, to close at 13,712.04, on concerns about fund outflows and a strengthening US$.
Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P gained 43.21 points, or 0.48%, to close at 9,064.26.