European Indexes Close Higher

Financial issues were strong day, while Germany's Merck and Bayer were among the decliners

From Standard & Poor's European MarketScope

On the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, Wall Street got a boost from lower crude prices. Financials were among the top Dax gainers after the Federal Reserve signaled late Tuesday that US benchmark rates might be nearing their peak.

Germany: The Xetra-Dax index closed higher. Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank (DB )both ended with 1.49% gains. Deutsche Bank was also in focus on news it is one of two parties interested in buying Metro's (+0.38%) property portfolio. Schering (-0.59%) edged lower following an approvable letter from the FDA, demanding an additional Vasovist trial before it can approve the magnetic resonance contrast agent.

Bayer (BAY )(-1.35%) was the biggest faller as a US jury found that Monsanto (MON )did not infringe the German group's patent on an insect-protection technology for corn. In the broader market, MLP (-0.94%) was lower as it is quite unlikely to add more than 40,000 clients in fourth quarter after just gaining 22,000 in the nine months period. Merck (MRK )tumbled 4.11% on news that CEO Bernhard Scheuble resigned late Tuesday, unexpectedly, and will be replaced by Michael Roemer. Beiersdorf (+4.23%) jumped following an announcement that it is planning job cuts and a reduction in production in order to achieve annual savings of about €100 million. Finally, (+1.84%) climbed on news of a share buyback.

United Kingdom: The FTSE 100 index ended higher (+0.26%) at 5531.7, extending a recent rally. Investors took profits on oil heavyweights BP (BP )(-0.98%) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS )(-0.16%). Johnson Matthey (-1.71%) reported first half figures in line with forecasts, but a downgrade to neutral from CSFB weighed on the stock. The broker argued the stock offers only limited scope for upgrades. WPP (-1.32%) dragged after losing a Nike (NIKE )contract in China.

DSG International (+1.0%) gained despite a 3% fall in first half like-for-like sales, as the market was relieved to hear that conditions, although not improved, at least had not worsened. Tomkins (+6.74%) jumped after announcing better-than-expected third quarter revenue. Crest Nicholson (+1.46%) said trading for fiscal 2005 had been in line with expectations and fundamentals of the housing market remained good. SkyePharma (+6.07%) soared on reports Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis (NVS )may be preparing a bid at £0.70. Easyjet slipped (-1.99%) after Deutsche Bank cut the stocks rating to hold from buy, but BT (BT ) rose (+1.91%) after Lehman upped it to overweight. EMI surged (+10.0%) on takeover speculation.

France: The CAC 40 index (+0.61%) confirmed its earlier gains, closing at the day's highs, with a 31-8 positive breadth, after US data improved sentiment. In Paris, France Telecom (FTE )(+3.32%) propelled the CAC 40 higher after Lehman made it its European telecom pick. BNP Paribas (+1.63%) remained strong ahead of third quarter results tomorrow. Vinci (+3.92%) gained as Lehman and Ixis Securities lifted their target prices, and Dassault Systemes (+2.74%) was boosted by an Exane upgrade to buy. Air France-KLM (AKH ) (+4.22%) took off after second quarter results showed a strong growth in operating profit.

Among fallers, oil giant Total (TOT )(-1.3%) was the CAC 40 main loser as WTI futures retreated. Arcelor (-2.3%) also capped the index's gains, with news of a bid for Canada's Dofasco, the largest investment in North America for the steel-maker. Small-cap Infogrames (+2.13%) was strong after posting a narrower-than-expected EBITDA loss of €16.7 million. Euronext (+0.27%) reports third quarter results Thursday before the market opens and consensus for net profit stands at €51 million.

Elsewhere: In Milan, Piazza Affari strengthened at the close. Fondiaria (+4.66%) outperformed the index, backed by renewed rumors that it is planning to shorten its chain of control and/or to delist Milano Assicurazioni (+2.02%). Additionally, the insurer enjoyed an upgrade of its target price to €30 by Cheuvreux, which also added the stock to its European Best Picks list.

The Spanish Ibex 35 index (+0.98%) closed in fine fettle. In Spain, Telefonica (TEF )(+1.37%) was the main gainer on news that it expects the mobile market in Brazil to grow by 40% in fiscal 2005. Utilities were also higher as CSFB assumed coverage of Endesa (+2.05%) and Iberdrola (+1.08%) with outperform ratings, and Gas Natural (+0.83%) and Union Fenosa (+1.7%) with neutral. The latter got a further lift from hopes that ACS (+0.7%) may increase its stake by 10%. Arcelor (-2.2%) remained the main loser after launching a bid for Canadian steel manufacturer Dofasco at CAD56 per share.

Prepared by Zaida Espana, Valerie Vidal, Michael Sanderson, Mariella Mongio, Alexander Wisch, Holly Cook, Emma Stevenson, Pawan Girglani, Julien Manrique, and Rocio Opazo-Aniotz (Standard & Poor's); Alex Halperin (BusinessWeek Online)

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