Europe and Asia Close Higher

European stock markets closed higher on Thursday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 gained 12.70 points, or 0.27%, to close at 4642.80. The FTSE 100 staged a late recovery to finish above the gain-line, lifted by strong financials. Shell gained 2.77%, broadly on a technical bounce, after announcing the unification of the company, the board and the post of chief executive. Investors piled in ahead of an increased FTSE weighting. Miners BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Antofagasta plunged on the interest rates news from China. GlaxoSmithKline slipped 0.26%, amid revenue concerns. Amvescap soared 8.44% on a relief rally, despite numbers slightly below estimates. British Airways, gained 3.87%, taking off on the back of cheaper fuel. Irish pharma group Elan rose 2.16% after saying it expects a return to profitability by 2006.

Germany's DAX gained 30.56 points, or 0.78%, to close at 3959.59, buoyed by a fall in oil futures and release of third-quarter results from a number of key European heavy-weights. Strong results from Shell, France Telecom, Alcatel plus reasonable data from domestic car giants DaimlerChrysler and VW helped to encourage some buyers out of the woodwork. Lufthansa was the best performer on the DAX, rising 4.7% today, as lower oil prices benefited the stock.

In France, the CAC-40 gained 43.43 points, or 1.18%, to close at 3721.82, ending just short of intraday peaks on Thursday. The benchmark index was in buoyant mood as crude oil prices continued to edge lower. Arcelor fell 2.81% on the interest rate news. However, most French blue chips stocks were upbeat, after a series of robust quarterly sales and earnings reports: Renault, France Telecom , Alcatel, Accor and TF1 all posted gains.

Asian markets ended higher on Thursday, buoyed by easing concerns over oil prices and a slew of positive earnings reports. Oil was trading at $51.56 a barrel in late Asia trade after a sharp drop during U.S. hours. Japan's Nikkei average rose 161.17 points, or 0.8%, to close at 10,853.12. Sony gained nearly 1% ahead of its earnings release while Sharp rose on bargain-hunting after a recent slump.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 274.40 points, or 2.14%, to close at 18,113.15. The benchmark was led by exporters like Johnson Electric and Li & Fung.

Canada's benchmark S&P/TSE lost 9.96, or 0.11%, to close at 8,781.04.

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