Europe Stocks Finish Mixed

The Nikkei and Hang Seng indexes finish lower

European stock markets finished mixed on Friday.

London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index ended 19.8 points higher, or 0.45%, to 4,417.7. Geopolitical news provided some support amid reports that Pakistani troops had surrounded the No. 2 Al Qaeda leader. Bank of England monetary policy committee member, Paul Tucker, has said that interest rates will rise to curb excessive spending. Newsflow was thin, except for a higher Morgan Stanley bid for Canary Wharf.

In Paris, the CAC 40 finished 23.3 points higher, or 0.65%, to 3,613.28. In France, focus remained on M&A stories after Sanofi-Synthelabo said that the first phase of its 12 billion euros syndicated loan to finance Aventis' takeover bid was in place. Shares of Schneider, Arcelor, and Total were higher.

Germany's DAX index ended down 8.28 points, or 0.22%, to 3,819.15. German investors were cautious as they awaited word on whether Pakistani forces engaged in battle will capture top Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahri. Options and futures expiries made trading volatile today. Locally, attention remained fixed on financials. Investors welcomed news that HypoVereinsbank's will go ahead with a 214.4 million share offering at 14.0 euros per share. The issue price is unchanged from the original plan from the end of February.

In Asia, the equity markets finished lower.

Japanese shares ended the week weaker Friday, as investors scrambled to get to the bottom of a shooting incident involving the Taiwanese president and vice-president. President Chen Shui-bian and his deputy Annete Lu was apparently hurt during campaigning in Tainan. Elections will be held on Saturday, March 20. The Nikkei 225 index dipped 65.77 points lower, or 0.57%, to 11,418.51. Banks, consumer-finance companies, and retailers were among the index's 10 biggest declining industry groups.

Minutes from the Bank of Japan's policy meeting showed that many board members thought the economy was generally following a steady recovery path.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index slid 25.61 points, or 0.2%, to 12,790.58, as shares remained weak on Friday ahead of Taiwan's presidential election tomorrow.

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