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Drug, Commodity Stocks Boost Euro Market

Reuters
Thursday, 15 May 2008 | 11:45 AM ET

European shares ended higher on Thursday as gains in drugs and commodity stocks offset the impact of banks, which weakened after Barclays unveiled writedowns and left the door open for a rights issue.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ended unofficially 0.3 percent higher at 1,358.74 points, its third day of modest gains so far this week.

The index has now gained 1.7 percent this month, building on a 6-percent gain in April, giving investors respite from a sharp slide that started almost a year ago due to credit market problems.

Roche Holding rose 2.5 percent and Novartis gained 2 percent on hopes for key cancer drug trials due to be presented at a researchers' meeting at the end of the month. Much of the information will be available from Friday.

BT Group jumped 5.4 percent after posting strong fourth-quarter results, while Deutsche Postbank rose 3 percent to top German gainers on talk of takeover interest from insurer Allianz. Allianz and Postbank's owner Deutsche Post both declined to comment.

Vivendi, Europe's largest entertainment group, jumped 5.2 percent after posting a smaller-than-expected drop in first-quarter operating profit late on Wednesday.

Miners and oil stocks tracked copper and crude prices higher.

Anglo American, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton all gained more than 1.7 percent while BP tacked on 0.6 percent.

Barclays was 2 percent lower, with banks broadly weaker.

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