Europe Markets End Higher

Asia markets end mixed; Canada shares finish slightly lower

European stock markets closed higher on Thursday.

London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 72.70 points, or 1.64%, to 4,515.60 as January retail sales rose more than expected 0.6% in January after rising 0.8% in December. BHP Billiton was higher as it doubled fiscal second-quarter earnings as China boosted purchases of iron ore. Royal Bank of Scotland was also higher after it said 2003 earnings rose 17%.

In Paris, the CAC 40 rose 50.30 points, or 1.36%, to 3,759.32 as the French current account surplus rose 14% in December as imports fell. 34 CAC stocks were higher, 6 were lower on the turnover of 30,916,000 shares. Retailer Carrefour was higher, boosted by rumors Wal-Mart might make bid for company. Arcelor was also higher after reporting a 2003 profit vs. a loss in 2002.

Germany's DAX index added 46.19 points, or 1.13%, to 4,141.53 on a report German fourth quarter gross domestic rose 0.2%, as expected. 28 DAX stocks were higher, 1 was lower on a turnover of 33,810,000 shares. Hugo Boss was higher as it was expected to report higher earnings. Allianz was higher on the increased sale of subordinated bonds to 1.5 billion euros. Meantime, DaimlerChrysler (DCX ) was lower after it said its Chrysler unit an operating loss last year.

Asian markets finished mixed Wednesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index gained 76.99 points, or 0.72%, to 10,753.80. Shinsei Bank attracted robust popularity on the first day of its trading on the main section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange Thursday, with its bid-only prices surging to almost 60% higher than its initial public offering prices.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index eased 61.16 points, or 0.44%, to 13,867.22.

Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX fell 18.74 points, or 0.22%, to 8,699.09.

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