European Indexes Fall

A roundup of Wednesday's action on major European exchanges

London

M&A speculation was not enough to keep the FTSE 100 from slipping into the red after a key gauge of US manufacturing activity contracted in December. This side of the Atlantic, M&A hopes in the banking sector boosted trade. High crude and copper prices lifted heavyweight oil stocks. On the trading floor, ALLIANCE & LEICESTER (+16.36%) soared on news that it had held takeover talks with Spain's Santander last month. The Spaniards have not ruled out resuming negotiations. BP (+0.24%) has agreed to pay Alaska US$379 million to settle a dispute over income tax liabilities for 2000-02, according to the FT. Retailers were in focus following the key Christmas period. DSGI (+8.06%), NEXT (+2.59%) gained on hopes of positive Christmas trading. In the broader market, mail-order catalog specialist N BROWN (+3.91%) also advanced. STANDARD LIFE (-0.4%) has raised its stake in an Indian life assurance j/v to 26% ahead of a proposed flotation of the business in 2009, the FT wrote. REED ELSEVIER (-1.18%) reiterated its target of a minimum 10% annual EPS growth. FORTH PORTS (+0.21%) edged up on vague speculation of Aussie interest. Bear Stearns said INFORMA (+3.36%) is its top pick in the Advertising and Publishing sector for 2008.

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