The FTSE 100 closed in the red, weighed down by energy and banking stocks, but firm mining stocks limited the downside. Wall Street was trading slightly higher on M&A news and positive jobs data. Meanwhile, crude prices fell to US$131.95/bbl, after hitting a new record high. ING raised its forecasts for oil prices and increased target prices for RDS (-1.94%), BP (-0.50%) and BG (-3.37%). In other news, BRITISH AIRWAYS (+4.69%) flew to the top of the blue-chip index after the BALPA withdrew court action. the LSE (-4.60%) plunged despite FY figures beating consensus, amid persistent concerns over new competition and pricing pressures. TATE & LYLE (-2.27%) soured despite FY numbers ahead of consensus as it warned the sugar market is likely to remain very difficult and challenging in 1H. On the upside, CADBURY (+3.42%) outperformed on renewed bid speculation. CABLE & WIRELESS (+2.69%) reported a 57% rise in FY PTP in line with estimates. In the broader market, bleak news for DAILY MAIL (-1.48%) as the publisher printed an uncertain outlook. MOTHERCARE (-0.51%) delivered a 35.8% rise in FY sales. DE LA RUE (+0.39%) said it was in talks regarding the possible sale of Cash Systems. The group will return GBP160m to shareholders, with a further return once the sale is complete.
The CAC 40 (+0.02%) closed flat, well off intra-day lows, with Wall Street staging a modest rebound from yesterday's losses. WTI has been easing from record highs seen earlier in the session; having earlier passed US$135.00/bbl, it now trades at US$132.35/bbl. Back home, AIR FRANCE-KLM (-10.24%) tumbled after reporting FY core earnings of EUR 1.405bn, up 13.3% y/y, though shy of consensus. Net income of EUR 748m fell 16% y/y. Adding to the gloom, American Airlines plans to cut thousand of jobs, raise charges and slash capacity. Elsewhere, UBS downgraded PPR (-2.16%) to neutral from buy. DANONE (-0.42%) is planning an 'honourable' exit from its j/v with Chinese partner Wahaha following a long and sometimes rancorous legal battle, Les Echos reported. Among gainers, EDF (+2.49%) remained a safe haven. PERNOD RICARD (-0.07%) saw a target cut from Kepler, but the broker reiterated its buy stance. JP Morgan reiterates its overweight stance on SOCGEN (+2.28%). UNIBAIL RODAMCO (unch) has completed the EUR 607m acquisition of the 140,400 square metre 'Shopping City' in Vienna, Austria. In the wider market, ATOS's (+2.04%) AGM was adjourned amid a dispute over voting rights, Reuters reported.
Xetra-Dax (+0.47%) turned positive in late trade, mirroring gains in the US after data showed fewer jobless claims in the US than expected. Also, oil retreated slightly to US$132.25 a barrel. Of local note, COMMERZBANK (+2.4%) and ALLIANZ (+0.93%) are making a EUR 10bn offer for POSTBANK (+1.24%) according to local press reports. LUFTHANSA (-1.8%) said it is interested in Austrian Airlines, but hasn't been approached by the carrier nor has it yet issued an offer. Meanwhile, Air France-KLM's core full-year profit missed expectations, and Finnair issued a profit warning. In other news: the German government has agreed to a revision of the so-called VW (-0.98%) law, Reuters reported a source as saying. Lower Saxony is to keep its blocking minority on important decisions, however. Staying with autos, Auto Motor und Sport reported that DAIMLER (-0.86%) will buy Chrysler's design centre in California. Key for SUEDZUCKER (-0.86%): UK peer Tate & Lyle voiced caution that the sugar market is likely to remain very difficult and challenging in 1H. On the broker front, Merrill Lynch downgraded MLP (-0.09%) to sell and upgraded HANOVER RE (+1.21%) to buy, while Goldman Sachs raised its price objective on GAGFAH (+1.19%) to EUR 13.70, reiterating buy.
Milan ended Thursday's session comfortably higher as Wall Street was trading in the black lifted by lower-than-expected initial claims. Back home, Silvio Berlusconi held his first cabinet meeting yesterday in Naples. Berlusconi announced that the waste-to-energy plant at Acerra will restart immediately. A spokesman for IMPREGILO (+2.06%) confirmed that the Acerra WTE plant, owned by the group, is 95% complete. On that note, A2A (+2.98%) climbed as it is likely to be awarded the waste management contract in the Campania region. The Italian government will convert ALITALIA's (unch) US$473m emergency loan into an asset. The Italian parliament could propose a bill to allow MEDIASET's (+0.17%) Rete 4 to keep analogue frequencies. The broadcaster also acquired a 25% stake in Tunisian satellite channel, Nessma TV. In further M&A news, IT HOLDING (+5.32%) said that it has not received an offer. Earlier in the day, website Women's Wear Daily wrote that Clessidra was planning to buy a majority stake in the holding and delist it. In other news, TELECOM ITALIA (+4.6%) jumped as the Italian regulator said it will cut mobile termination rates by more than 30% over the next three years. The cut is better than the telco expected. On the broker front, ING lifted ENI's (+0.22%) target to EUR 33.60. Keeps buy rating.
The Ibex recouped earlier losses to end the session flat. A lift was provided by stronger trading on Wall Street as weekly jobless claims came in below expectations, while WTI retreated off recent highs, trading at US$132.50/bbl at the European close. In Spain, energy infrastructure plays and stocks with exposure to renewables made gains: ACCIONA (+2.77%), IBERDROLA RENOVABLES (+2.45%), ENAGAS (+3.31%). IBERIA (-4.04%) was the weakest percentage performer amid negative news elsewhere in the sector. SANTANDER (-1.09%) is on the look-out for an acquisition opportunity in the US, but is not in any rush, according to Negocio. Amancio Ortega and three other groups are interested in COLONIAL's (unch) 84%-owned French unit SFL, according to La Gaceta. Meanwhile, Colonial is to undertake a capital increase starting from tomorrow, offering one new share for every 15 shares currently held. AVANZIT (+3.27%) confirmed that its unit Navento is in talks with TELEFONICA (+0.87%) regarding a deal on GPS services in LatAm. In broker action, ING downgraded IBERDROLA (-0.21%) to hold.