European Indexes Advance

Markets posted solid gains as U.S. futures pointed to another rise on Wall Street

London: The FTSE 100 stays strong ahead of the US open. Futures point to a flat open on Wall Street ahead of CPI data. The Bank of Japan has kept rates on hold at 0.5%, as expected. Euro zone government bonds are lower, tracking a fall in US Treasuries and ahead of US CPI data. The British pound is at US$1.9701. The Japanese yen slumps to a 15-year low vs. the pound following BoJ governor Toshihiko Fukui's comments.

Investors picked supermarket retailer Sainsbury (+5.22%) for their shopping cart after Delta Two, an investment fund backed by Qatar, raises its stake to 25%. Morrison (+2.41%) and Tesco (+1.27%) perk up as well.

Among other gainers, Lonmin (+5.10%) is firm after Morgan Stanley raises its price target, saying the miner is its top pick. MS also upgrades platinum price forecasts. Copper price moves slightly lower after the chances of a strike in Mexico diminish. Crude prices remain high at US$67.35/bbl amid tensions in the Middle East and US refining capacity constraints.

In company news, Wolseley (+2.76%) rises after talk that US based Home Depot's (HD) unit Hughes Supply has got a US$10 billion PE bid. Hughes Supply competes with Wolseley in the US. Lloyds TSB (+0.70%) has started the auctioning of Abbey Life whose policies are valued at about US$2 billion, writes the WSJ. Suitors include Resolution (+1.49%) and Swiss Re.

Paris: The CAC 40 (+0.34%) remains higher at midsession while US futures are flat ahead of CPI figures, the Michigan sentiment survey, the Empire State survey, capacity utilisation and industrial production figures.

Locally, as baby boomers retire, AXA (AXA) (+1.03%) is making one of the biggest pushes around the globe into variable annuities, the WSJ reports. The company says that at the end of March, AXA had some US$81 billion in variable-annuity accounts in the US. According to Les Echos, Renault (+0.73%) is planning to sell part of its dealer network in an effort to reduce costs. EDF (-0.20%) says it plans to spin off its distribution business by the end of the year as part of the liberalisation of France's retail power market.

Sanofi (SNY) (-1.08%) wins two US government contracts to retool existing plants to increase the capacity for flu vaccines. Goldman Sachs downgrades to neutral from buy.

Elsewhere, Groupe Flo (+14.38%) soars as the European Union may allow France to lower value-added tax for restaurants, Bloomberg says. Publicis (+0.48%) has bought 49% of Business Interactive. Zodiac (+1.45%) reports nine months sales of €1.85 billion and confirms it expects fiscal EPS growth of over 10%.

Frankfurt: Xetra-Dax (+0.71%) is firmly higher midsession Friday after US stocks rose overnight and are poised to continue their ascent today.

Locally, shares in Norddeutsche (+7.55%) jump as Vienna-listed industrial group A-Tec takes a 10% stake in Europe's biggest copper refinery. Some 3.7 million shares were bought at an undisclosed price.

In other news: a German court has ruled that the government is responsible for damages Deutsche Telekom (DT) (+0.29%) suffered when it paid to settle a shareholder class-action lawsuit in the US in 2005. A shareholder group has filed a lawsuit to challenge the election of VW (+1.62%) executives to MAN's (+0.55%) supervisory board.

S&P has revised its ratings outlook on Kloeckner (+2.01%) to positive from stable, affirming its BB debt rating. PPR says it was notified by the European and American competition authorities of their approval of its takeover of Puma (+0.23%). The French group's offer is €330 per share.

Major shareholders in Freenet (+0.16%) are calling for a dividend payment of €10.00 per share instead of the proposed €6.00, writes the FTD. Key on the broker front, Morgan Stanley lifts its target on Hypo Real Estate (+2.53%) to €60 from €54, reiterating overweight, and UBS upgrades Solon (+0.83%) to buy from neutral, lifting the target to €50 from €47.

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