European markets and euro gain ground

March 3, 2011 - 0:0
LONDON (AFP) — Europe's main stock markets and the euro edged higher on Tuesday, thanks partly to receding concerns over the impact of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, analysts said. London's FTSE 100 index of top shares rose 0.18 percent to 6,005.22 points nearing the half-way stage. The Paris CAC 40 added 0.27 percent to 4,122.89 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 firmed 0.61 percent to 7,315.32 points. The pan-European Stoxx 50 index of top eurozone companies was up 0.26 percent to 3,031.79. ""European bourses continued to reclaim lost ground on Tuesday with the FTSE 100, DAX and CAC all climbing in early trading, led chiefly by demand in heavyweight mining shares,"" said City Index analyst Joshua Raymond. ""Investor concerns regarding the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa seem to have abated of late, a fact helped no end by the stabilizing of crude oil prices. ""Should crude prices continue to consolidate, this may open up potential for stronger equity moves as traders (review) valuations."" In foreign exchange deals on Thursday, the euro rose as high as $1.3855, compared with $1.3803 late in New York on Monday, as investors absorbed a series of economic data releases. Eurozone inflation rose to 2.4 percent year-on-year in February from 2.3 percent in January, according to official EU estimates on Tuesday. That rate was above the European Central Bank's medium-term inflation target of slightly below two percent across the 17-nation bloc. Rising inflation pressures will likely overshadow an ECB monetary policy meeting on Thursday. But ""as the rise in inflation so far has been driven largely by higher energy prices, it still looks premature for the ECB to move to an outright shift in its statement regarding inflation risks at Thursday's meeting,"" said HSBC economist Janet Henry. Rising inflation has fanned speculation that the ECB could advance a rate hike that many currently expect early in the third quarter of this year. At the same time, the European Commission raised its eurozone 2011 growth forecast to 1.6 percent on Tuesday but warned that markets remain fragile and unrest in the Arab world threatens to drive up inflation. The European Union's executive arm, which last November had forecast 2011 growth of 1.5 percent, said the improved outlook was supported by ""better prospects for the global economy and upbeat EU business sentiment."" But the recovery is expected to remain uneven among the 17 nations that share the euro, with the export-driven German economy leading the pack while debt-stricken southern countries lag behind as they slash spending. In Asian trade earlier Tuesday, markets were also higher with Tokyo performing strongly after a rally on Wall Street and as oil prices stabilized. Tokyo rose 1.22 percent as exporter stocks were boosted by a weaker yen -- a result of dealers moving out of the safe-haven Japanese currency amid renewed risk appetite. Hong Kong rose 0.25 percent while Shanghai gained 0.47 percent after a top official suggested inflation would fall in February, boosting hopes that further Chinese interest rate hikes in the near term can be avoided. Sydney ended lower however after the Australian central bank said it would keep rates on hold at 4.75 percent.