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Europe: Stock markets climb on earnings, Fed

[LONDON] European stock markets rose on Thursday on company updates and as investors assessed the US Federal Reserve's outlook for the economy.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index gained 0.57 per cent to finish at 6,668.87 points.

In the eurozone, the CAC 40 in Paris rose 0.58 per cent to end the day at 5,046.42 points, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 gained 0.40 per cent to close at 11,257.15 points compared with Wednesday's close.

The euro fell to $1.0916 from $1.0990 late in New York on Wednesday, as Germany's jobless scrolls showed a surprise increase of 9,000 people in July.

The unemployment rate stayed at 6.4 per cent in July, however, the lowest level since reunification almost a quarter century ago.

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Asian stock markets mostly closed higher Thursday, tracking a rally in New York, while the dollar advanced after the Federal Reserve upgraded its outlook on the US economy, traders said.

"With no surprises from the Federal Reserve, individual stock performance will be the key driver in the short term as the reporting season continues," said Andy McLevey, head of dealing at stockbroker Interactive Investor.

The Fed on Wednesday said the US economy had expanded "moderately" in recent months and the jobs market strengthened, though it noted continued "soft" business investment and exports.

It also said inflation was below target, but put much of that down to falling energy prices and cheaper imports caused by the strong dollar.

While it gave no more clues about its plans for raising interest rates, analysts said the wording suggested September was now a strong possibility for a rate rise.

Wall Street stocks fell Thursday following mixed earnings and government data that showed the US economic rebound in the second quarter was slightly lower than expected Around mid-day in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.12 per cent to 17,730.71 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.17 per cent to 2,104,98, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.06 per cent to 5,108.52.

On the European corporate front, the energy sector was in focus as Royal Dutch Shell said it plans to reduce its headcount by 6,500 this year owing to sliding oil prices and as it looks to complete a mega-takeover.

With crude oil futures down by about a half in value since a year ago, Britain's biggest domestic energy provider Centrica said it too would reduce its workforce - by a net 4,000 positions alongside a cost-cutting programme through to 2020.

Shell earlier this year unveiled a mega-takeover of British rival BG Group worth £47 billion, as the two firms consolidate their positions in a sector slammed by the oil price slump.

Shell 'B' shares advanced 4.73 per cent to close at 1,861 pence, BG Group won 3.80 per cent to finish at 1,079.50 pence, while Centrica lost 3.13 per cent to 266.60 pence.

Meanwhile German airline Lufthansa, still reeling from the crash of one of its low-cost Germanwings planes in March over the French Alps, said it tripled net profit in the second quarter, helped by cheap fuel. Its shares however slumped 2.84 per cent to close at 12.30 euros.

French auto group Renault said its first half profits had doubled to 1.4 billion euros compared with the same period in 2014 as the European market showed a stronger than expected recovery.

But its shares crashed 7.99 per cent to 83.13 euros with the results outcome expected and traders preferring to cash in on recent gains.

Europe's biggest bank by capitalisation, Santander of Spain, said its quarterly profits lost 17.2 per cent to 1.7 billion euros due to a weak euro and on growth in Britain. Its shares sank 3.40 per cent to finish at 6.277 euros on the Madrid market, which lost 1.01 per cent in Thursday trading.


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