Europe and Asia Mixed

London played catch-up with the rest of Europe, while Hong Kong fell, pressured lower by banking shares and property stocks.

European stock markets were mixed on Tuesday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 gained 32.70 points, or 0.68%, to close at 4847.00. UK investors also played catch-up with the rest of Europe, as European bourses gained yesterday when London was closed. Individual performances in the UK were mixed, with retailers in focus as Christmas data were released. Woolworths sunk 5.0% after reporting flat year-over-year sales in the four weeks to Jan. 1. The news also impacted WH Smith, which dropped 1.0%. However, other retailers gained, especially after research body Footfall said the number of shoppers visiting stores in the six days to Dec. 31 was up 7% year-over-year. Next was the pick of the bunch, ahead of trading statement tomorrow. Shire Pharma was the FTSE's best performer following news that it will develop a new treatment for hyperactivity disorder. Media stocks were in play as Lehman Brothers published its sector strategy for 2005. The broker upgraded Reed Elsevier. On the M&A front, attention remained on the London Stock Exchange as CEO Clara Furse was set to meet Deutsche Boerse representatives on Thursday.

In Germany, the DAX lost 1.03 points, or 0.02%, to close at 4290.50. Carmakers were firmer across the board ahead of U.S. car sales figures for December due after the close. Porsche disclosed that its North America unit sales fell 2% in December and rose 11% for the year as a whole. Volkswagen moved 2.44% higher despite posting a 6% decline in 2004 sales in China versus 2003. VW said sales should fare better this year. ThyssenKrupp is trimming its German workforce as it is cutting 800 of 6,500 jobs at ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, reported the Hamburger Abendblatt, quoting the unit's new head. Wall Street Journal Europe speculated that Phillips may be interested in Schering as a possible takeover target as the Dutch group is looking to expand its medical diagnostics equipment business. Deutsche Telekom's T-Systems is set to expand outside Germany this year, reported the Financial Times, taking on rivals such as EDS and Cap Gemini. TUI has agreed to buy online travel group Ferien AG for an undisclosed sum.

France's CAC-40 gained 7.62 points, or 0.20%, to close at 3863.30. The CAC 40 edged higher, but Total hurt the CAC 40 on weaker crude futures. The French oil major was also in focus on news it is considering a $500 million Argentine investment in gas production through its Total Austral unit, La Tribune reported. Euronext remained in focus, awaiting the Deutsche Boerse's move. The German exchange is set to meet the LSE on Thursday. Note: Deutsche Boerse yesterday denied it plans to spin off its clearing unit Clearstream as part of potential deal with the London Stock Exchange. Media stocks were in play as Lehman Brothers published its sector strategy for 2005, with Vivendi Universal amongst its key overweight recommendations in Europe. However, Lehman downgraded M6 to underweight from equal weight.

Asian markets were mixed as Japan shares ended a touch higher in half-day trade on Tuesday on the back of gains in blue chips. The Nikkei 225 gained 28.99 points, or 0.25%, to close at 11,517.75. Sony Corp rose almost 1% while Matsushita Electric edged up 0.18%. Banks, which were among the best performers in 2004, also gained, with MTFG rising 0.96% while UFJ Holdings advanced 0.48%.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 191.52 points, or 1.35%, to close at 14,045.90, pressured lower by banking shares and property stocks.

Canada's benchmark TSX/S&P lost 103.59 points, or 1.12%, to close at 9,143.06.

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