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European Stocks End Higher

Major European stock markets closed higher Monday, with buying inspired mainly by deals, the prospect of more deals and, in one case, the rejection of a takeover offer.

Most Asian markets were shut for the Lunar New Year holiday, while the U.S. market was closed for President's Day.

In the energy market, New York light crude futures declined slightly in European electronic trading, but losses were limited by U.S. refinery outages and concerns about production disruptions by militants in the Niger Delta regions. Three more foreign oil workers were kidnapped by militants Monday.

There is no trading on the NYMEX floor Monday, but electronic trading continued.

The Paris CAC-40 was higher, with shares of Airbus parent EADS rising nearly 3% despite shareholders of EADS failing to reach an agreement for the restructuring of the aircraft maker, expected to include as many as 12,000 job cuts.

Meanwhie, Swiss reinsurer Converium rejected a $2.51 billion takeover offer from French company Scor. Converium soared more than 13% and Scor sank more than 6.6%.

In Germany, the DAX rose. DaimlerChrysler continued to make headlines, with the automaker moving ahead with plans to sell or spin off its Chrysler unit. Earlier a spokesman for Hyundai Motor said the Korea automaker was not interested in buying the struggling U.S. business. Shares of DaimlerChrysler rose 3.7%.

And athletic apparel company Puma reported a fourth-quarter profit of 32.8 million euros ($42.6 million), slightly below analysts expectations for a profit of 34 million euros. The stock fell 3%.

London's FTSE-100 was also in positive territory. Shares of J. Sainsbury rose 1.8% as U.K. newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported that a Qatari investment fund is interested in buying the supermarket chain.

In Norway, energy and aluminum group Norsk Hydro reported a fourth-quarter operating profit of 4.57 billion Norwegian crowns ($745.9 million), sharply missing analysts' expectations for a profit for 8.35 billion crowns ($1.36 billion).

But rumors of really bad results had been circulating the market for a while, CNBC Europe's Steve Sedgwick reported, and as a result the stock fell less than 1%.

Tokyo and Australia Climb Higher

All was quiet in Asia with most countries celebrating the Lunar New Year holidays. Japan and Australia ended the session higher.

Taiwan and China are closed for the entire week to mark the Year of the Pig starting Sunday, while Hong Kong and Singapore will be shut for the first two days of the week. South Korea and Malaysia will be closed on Monday. Wall Street will also be shut on Monday for Presidents Day.

The Nikkei 225 Average closed at its highest in nearly seven
years as retail stocks jumped on expectations of industry consolidation after Daimaru said it was considering a tie-up a tie-up with Matsuzakaya Holdings. Daimaru, which ranks fourth in Japan's department store sector, said it is mulling the formation of an alliance with eighth-ranked Matsuzakaya in a deal that would create Japan's largest department store group.

Australian shares finished stronger, briefly passing the 6,000 level, led by gains in Australia and New Zealand Banking Group after it offered to buy the rest of online broker E*Trade Australia. The S&P/ASX 200 Index pulled back after hitting a lifetime high of 6,003.2 earlier in the session, but still closed higher.

Year of the Pig

Investors in Hong Kong looking to past Years of the Pig for guidance will take heart that Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index has climbed, on average, 43% in each of the last three pig years since 1970, according to HSBC's pan-Asian equity strategist Garry Evans. "Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysian markets all did reasonably well, too, in the Year of the Pig."

But he warns: "Before investors get too excited, though, we find another, even stronger trend driven by Chinese New Year: the tendency of the market to perform well in the period up to the New Year, and then slump afterwards."

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