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European markets down on lower commodities prices


by Elaine Frei
February 8, 2006

The European equities markets were down Wednesday, as the FTSE Eurofirst 300 dropped 0.2 percent to 1,315.77. This was despite more rumors of mergers as oil and mining stocks fell with Tuesday’s declines in commodities prices.

Salzgitter was down 4.6 percent to €54.49 as Australia’s biggest steel maker, BlueScope Steel, issued a profits warning. Copper producer Norddeutsche Affinerie lost 5.5 percent on the day to €24.42. Not everyone in the metals industry was down on the day, however, as speciality steel and tool maker Sandvik gained 4.8 percent to SKr407 after its fourth-quarter report showed an almost 35 percent gain in profits on strong demand.

In the oil sector, OMV was down 2.9 percent to €55.58, while Total dropped 2.4 percent to €215.90. The European oil sector as a whole fell 2.2 percent on the day.

The air transportation sector fared better, with Alitalia up 5.4 percent to €1.154. Even though Morgan Stanley said that the Italian air carrier will have to struggle to restructure, it nonetheless upgraded the airline to “overweight” and set a price target of €1.60. Meanwhile, Air France-KLM gained 3.1 percent. Morgan Stanley also upgraded that airline to “overweight”, saying that the market has underestimated revenue and cost synergy benefits when the French airline merged with KLM.

Other merger talk came in the telecommunications sector. Speculation over Portuguese conglomerate Sonae’s hostile bid for Portugal Telecom and takeover bid for PT Multimedia, 58 percent owned by PT, sent Sonae up 0.8 percent to €1.23. PT gained 0.1 percent to €9.70, and PT Multimedia gained 0.3 percent to €9.93. If these deals are completed, analysts expect that France Telecom, which owns 23.7 percent to Sonaecom, Sonae’s telecommunications arm, will be affected. France Telecom rose 1.3 percent on the day to €18.35.



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