European stocks end higher

LONDON: European stocks rebounded Thursday after investors took encouragement from a higher start to trading on Wall Street and a bounce-back in Japan's Nikkei. 

Germany's DAX 30 Index closed 0.65 percent higher at 5,430, the French CAC-40 index increased 0.9 percent to 4,814, while the U.K. FTSE 100 Index gained 0.5 percent to 5,693. 

U.S. stocks offered some support, helped by better-than-expected results from Pfizer Inc., upbeat earnings from chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices and a rebound in the Tokyo stock market. 

The Nikkei 225 rebounded Thursday as bargain hunters moved in after steep declines on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

European investors turned positive on most sectors, with mining companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto leading the sector's gains. 

One of the weaker sectors was oil and gas, with Royal Dutch Shell trading lower after Merrill Lynch downgraded the company to neutral. 

Technology companies such as Infineon Technologies and STMicroelectronics also regained lost ground, with Infineon up 1.7 percent and STMicroelectronics up 2.1 percent, shrugging off pressure from Yahoo and Intel results. 

Charles Dautresme, a European equity strategist at Standard & Poor's, said that the IT sector in Europe is seeing large orders in Asia for the new generation of telecom networks. 

"In the U.S. the correction has happened on Internet stocks and we don't have those stocks in Europe,'' he said. 

Novartis fell 2.8 percent in Switzerland after it reported flat fourth-quarter earnings of US$1.35 billion (euro1.12 billion), hurt by a charge of US$266 million (euro220 million) for its NKS104 drug and as other one-time items. 

Bucking the lower health-care trend was Britain's Shire, which gained 2.8 percent after it said that a U.S. District Court in Delaware had agreed to stay the company's Adderall XR patent infringement lawsuit against Impax pending settlement negotiations. 

German airline Lufthansa gained 2.2 percent in Frankfurt after the company forecast a 2005 operating profit of euro550 million (US$667 million) , from previous guidance of "significantly above euro400 million.'' 

Lufthansa said the increase was due to a good performance at its passenger business segment at the end of last year. 

Consumer-electronics giant Philips Electronics rose 1 percent in Amsterdam after saying it has agreed to buy U.S.-based Lifeline Systems, a provider of personal-emergency response services, for around US$750 million (euro620.3 million). 

Euronext NV, which owns the Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon stock exchanges, gained 6 percent after Citigroup upgraded its shares to buy from sell. 

Citigroup said Euronext offers M&A potential with either Deutsche Boerse or the London Stock Exchange as well as an improving revenue outlook. 

Deutsche Boerse also rose 6 percent after Citigroup kept the stock as a buy but raised its price target, citing strong earnings momentum, continued capital returns and a possible Euronext deal. 

Citigroup also lifted its stand-alone fair value for the LSE, which rose 4.1 percent. 

Bouygues rose 2.3 percent in Paris and Telefonica added 0.1 percent in Madrid after Morgan Stanley upgraded both to overweight from equal-weight. - AP 

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