Europe Higher, Asia Loses
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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