Europe Higher, Asia Loses

European stock markets gained on Friday while Asian markets lost ground on caution ahead of U.S. jobs data

European stock markets gained in trading on Friday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 gained 29.80 points, or 0.62%, to close at 4854.10. The FTSE closed higher after a number of key broker upgrades offset a string of profit warnings from high profile retailers. BG Group lifted 2.37% after Merrill Lynch upgraded the stock to buy while Morgan Stanley upped HBOS to overweight. Shire Pharma also jumped 4.65% on a JP Morgan upgrade. As anticipated, Marks & Spencer, Big Food Group, and JJB Sports all posted disappointing Christmas sales figures. All three initially fell in early trade but M&S and JJB gained on Friday bid talk. M&S said UK retail sales for the six weeks to Jan. 1 2005 were down 5.6% with sales for the 13 weeks to Jan. 1 dropping 6%. The company now expects fiscal profits will be in the range of 600 million pounds to 625 million pounds, vs. consensus of 675 million pounds. Big Food Group reports a 3.4% fall in third-quarter sales while JJB Sports sees a total turnover falling 2% year-over-year for the six weeks ending Jan. 2.

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