European banks in gains

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 added 0.1 percent Wednesday to close at 1,502.83 as a strong opening in New York helped overcome earlier declines due to profit taking.

The mining and oil sectors were mixed as base metals prices dropped and broker sentiment on oil was negative. Norsk Hydro, which has aluminium as well as oil interests, dropped 3.2 percent to NKr188.50. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch reduced its rating on the oil sector as a whole to “underweight” on the basis of falling refining margins. Italian refiner Saras fell 0.8 percent to €4.05, while Neste Oil was 1.8 percent lower to €22.71. On the other hand, Hellenic Petroleum added 5.2 percent to €11.10 after a consortium it participates in found natural gas in Libya.

Steelmakers were hurt by a sector downgrade from Credit Suisse, which reduced its recommendation from “market weight” to “underweight”. ThyssenKrupp dropped 2 percent to €35.96, while Salzgitter fell 2.3 percent to €99.31 and Mittal Steel was 4 percent lower to €31.55.

The banking sector was higher on the session. UBS added 2.5 percent to SFr75.90. Greek banks Alpha Bank and EFG Eurobank both saw gains as well, with Alpha up 2.6 percent to €23.90 and EFG 2.9 percent higher to €28.70.

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