Europe Stocks Finish Higher

Asia stocks end with solid gains; Canada shares slip at close

European stock markets finished higher Friday. Blue-chip indexes in London and Paris hit new multi-month highs before a bout of mild profit taking pared gains, reports Informa.

London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index added just 2.1 points, or 0.05%, to 4,573.9, as March retail sales rose 6.4%, above expectations of 5.6% and slightly lower from last month's 6.5% reading. The preliminary first quarter GDP showed that British economic growth slowed to 0.6% from 0.9% in the fourth quarter, but rose 3.0% year-over-year, compared with 2.7% seen in the same period in 2003.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index edged up 25.8 points, or 0.68%, to 3,811.43, as traders showed little reaction to a report that the French consumer price index rose 0.4% in April.

Germany's DAX index added 44.47 points, or 1.1%, to 4,103.62, on indications that U.S. markets will open higher with help from Microsoft's better-than-expected results. Shares of DaimlerChrysler were surging in heavy trading after the company scrapped its plans to help bail out its Japanese affiliate, Mitsubishi Motors.

Asian markets finished the week with solid gains. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index added 140.56 points, or 1.17%, to close at 12,120.66, led by gains in tech names following rises in U.S. peers, with Fujitsu shares adding 9.16%.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 216.24 points, or 1.78%, to close at 12,383.94. Airline Cathay Pacific fell 1.3% on SARS concerns after two suspected cases were reported in mainland China. Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX fell 12.11 points, or .014%, to 8,667.87.

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