LONDON (CNNfn) - Europe's leading trio of equity markets - London, Frankfurt and Paris - saw out the last trading session of the 1900s Thursday with a staccato burst of closing records that underscored the stock euphoria that swept across Europe in the latter months of 1999.|
The region's leading stock index, London's FTSE 100, finished a shortened final trading session of the year with a broad-based rally that resulted in a fourth-straight record close. Britain's main stock index capped a shortened session up 94.3 points, or 1.4 percent, at 6,930.2. The banking sector accounted for the strongest gains in the overall blue chip advance. The index rose as high as 6,950.6 before retreating.
Volume was a meager 183 million shares, a level at which price movements tend to be exaggerated. The FTSE 100 was up 1,047.6 points, or 17.8 percent, for the year.
Half an hour later after the FTSE 100 closed, at 1 p.m. London time, Frankfurt emulated the feat with its own closing milestone that marked the electronically traded Xetra Dax index's 11th record finish in the past 12 sessions. The Dax pushed up 98.56 points, or 1.44 percent, to finish at 6,958.14. The index climbed nearly 39 percent for the year.
In Paris, the blue-chip CAC 40, which traded regular hours Thursday, forged ahead more than 2 percent to its 38th closing record of the year. Strong technology issues and year-end window-dressing propelled the CAC 40 up 2.07 percent, or 120.57 points, to 5,958.32, above Wednesday’s record high close of 5,837.75. The CAC 40 has gained 51 percent on the year, making it the leading advancer among the euro-zone's big-four markets.
Switzerland’s SMI index closed up 1.3 percent at 7,570.1 in a shortened session -- not enough to merit entry into the ranks of Thursday's European record-breakers. For the year, the SMI added 5.7 percent, hobbled by a lack of big-ticket tech stocks and underperforming pharmaceuticals.
Among smaller markets, the main AEX gauge in Amsterdam ended up 1.35 percent at 671.41, a new record close. Milan and Madrid both posted gains of just over 1/2 percent.
In London, 73 of the leading index's blue chips ended on higher ground. HSBC Holdings (HSBA) added 1.3 percent, Standard Chartered (STAN) stormed up 6.5 percent and Lloyds (LLOY) gained just under 1 percent. The FTSE 100's oil leaders, BP Amoco (BP-A) and Shell (SHEL) both advanced about 1 percent.
In Frankfurt, DaimlerChrysler (FDCX) posted a gain of 0.52 percent. Shares continued to benefit from the carmaker's 12 percent rise in preliminary 1999 sales and upbeat 2000 outlook, reported on Tuesday.
Deutsche Telekom (FDTE), the index's most heavily weighted stock, clocked a 2.9 percent gain after reporting Wednesday it had added 66 percent more mobile-phone customers since the start of 1999. Telekom also said it expects strong growth from the mobile unit in 2000. The company was the Dax's leading gainer in 1999, vaulting 150 percent.
On the downside, shares of embattled construction group Philipp Holzmann (FHOZ) slumped 3.9 percent after an extraordinary shareholders meeting.
Traders told Reuters they anticipated a continued rise in the Dax going into 2000, supported by firm fundamentals that could give a lift to the cyclical retail, chemical and auto sectors.
In Paris, insurance stocks remained under pressure as damage from the storm that wreaked havoc throughout Europe was estimated to be as high as $6 billion. Reinsurer Scor (PSCO) closed down 0.7 percent, Axa (PCS) ended fractionally higher at 138.4 euros. Construction firm Lafarge (PLG) jumped 2.7 percent to a new high at 115.6 euros.
TotalFina (PFP) added 1.9 percent, reversing earlier losses, after the French environment ministry said the refiner giant should be prepared to pay clean-up costs of the oil spill from one of its chartered tankers off France's west coast.
France Telecom (PFTE) rallied 3.8 percent to a new record at 131.3 euros. Alcatel (PCGE) soared 4.8 percent.
For the year, high-tech issues hogged the limelight in London. Chip designer Arm Holdings (ARM), which advanced 0.4 percent Friday, rallied a spectacular 1,209 percent for the year, leading FTSE-100 issues. It was followed by accounting-software company Sage (SGE), Colt Telecom (CTM) and software developer Logica (LOG).
In currency markets, the euro hovered less than half a cent above parity with the dollar, at around $1.0040. The euro has slid 14 percent against the dollar since its launch at $1.17 on Jan. 1. It has slumped 22 percent against the yen.
--from staff and wire reports