European markets close higher


London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading companies rose 0.21 percent to 6,736.13 points.
LONDON (AFP) – European stock markets moved higher on Friday in low-volume trade, aided by upbeat Spanish unemployment figures, but gains were capped after sharp losses elsewhere following more weak data from China.

In afternoon deals, London s benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading companies rose 0.21 percent to 6,736.13 points.

In Paris, the CAC 40 climbed 0.47 percent to 4,247.23 points and Frankfurt s DAX 30 index added 0.45 percent to 9,442.20 compared with the closing level on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Italy s FTSE Mib rose 1.16 percent to 19,149.98 points.

Spain s IBEX 35 index meanwhile gained 0.56 percent to 9,815.20 points, after the eurozone nation announced a sharp contraction in jobless queues in December.

The news offered a glimmer of New Year hope for the 4.7 million people still registered as unemployed in the eurozone s fourth-largest economy.

“European equities (are) on the weak side this morning following losses overnight in Asian and US markets,” said trader Ishaq Siddiqi at ETX Capital.
All three main markets sank Thursday as investors reacted to poor data and took profits on the first trading day of 2014.

Markets were spooked on Friday by figures showing growth in the China mainland non-manufacturing sector slowed sharply in December from the month before. The sector covers services including, among others, retail, aviation, software and real-estate.

The data came on the heels of Thursday s news that China s manufacturing sector had seen an easing of activity last month.

“Since we are still within the festive season week and most of the market participants are away, trading volumes should be light today,” said Varengold Bank analyst Anita Paluch.

“It appears subdued data out of China was a good catalyst for those present to take some profits and markets came off recent highs.”

In foreign exchange activity, the European single currency eased to $1.3641 from $1.3665 late in New York on Thursday. The dollar dipped at 104.46 yen against 104.69 yen.

US stocks Friday opened higher ahead of a series of appearances by top US Federal Reserve officials, including Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Five minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 42.64 (0.26 percent) to 16,483.99.

The broad-based S&P 500 advanced 3.45 (0.19 percent) to 1,835.43, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 4.31 (0.10 percent) at 4,147.38.

Bernanke, in his final month as head of the US central bank, was scheduled to speak at a conference on economics in Philadelphia Friday afternoon, amid hopes he will provide some hints on the direction of monetary policy.

Across in Asia on Friday, markets slid with Hong Kong and Shanghai hit hard by the disappointing Chinese services sector data.

Hong Kong stocks tumbled 2.24 percent on Friday, registering their worst performance in six months, as the figures compounded concerns about the world s number two economy.

Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

Bangkok fell for a second day, shedding 0.55 percent in the afternoon — after diving more than five percent on Thursday — as anti-government protests grip the capital amid fears that elections due next month will not go ahead.

And in India, Mumbai s Sensex was 0.44 percent lower after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would leave office after polls due this year even if his embattled Congress party wins a third term.

In company news, Telecom Italia surged 7.27 percent to 0.7590 euros on a report that main shareholder Telefonica was interested in buying the Italian group s Brazilian unit.

The share price for spirits company Remy Cointreau fell a sharp 2.20 percent to 59.13 euros following the surprise resignation of its chief executive after only three months on the job.



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