European Stocks Hit Six-Year High On First Day of '07 Trading

European stocks closed the first session of the new year strong, hitting a six-year high in the first day of trading in 2007.

Volume was light with the U.S. markets closed, however the major indexes in Europe rallied throughout the day, helped by merger news from steelmakers, telecoms and the French utility sector.

Mining stocks also helped drive European shares higher.

The FTSE CNBC Global 300 Index was firmly higher. Volume was light Tuesday because U.S. markets were closed in observance of a national day of mourning for former President Gerald Ford.

The dollar was down against the euro, which was supported by expectations for more rate increases from the European Central Bank.

In the energy market, New York light crude futures dropped in electronic trading. The trading floor on the NYMEX was also closed. Traders have been concerned about the warmer-than-usual weather in the United States.

Shares of Vodafone rose in European trading on market talk that the cell phone company may be less likely to acquire India's Hutchison Essar. Traders were concerned that the acquisition would not enhance earnings, according to Reuters.

In France, the Paris CAC-40 was higher, with utility Suez the biggest gainer. Today, investing holding company Artemis, controlled by French billionaire Francois Pinault, said it is keeping options open on a bid for Suez.

"After the request of (French market regulator) AMF, Artemis confirms that at this stage, no decision has been made regarding a possible bid for Suez shares and that all options remain open," Artemis said in a statement, according to Dow Jones.

Frankfurt's DAX finished up. Blue chips like DaimlerChrysler and Siemens were stronger and investors still consider German stocks to be relatively inexpensive, CNBC Europe's Michael Mross reported.

And London's FTSE-100 also closed higher. Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus Group gained 1% on a report from the Economic Times of India that Tata Steel may raise its current takeover offer by 7% to 10%.

Asia Up; Tokyo Closed

Asian stock markets were higher, with Australia reaching an all-time intraday high before pulling back and Taiwan closing at a six-year peak.

But many major markets, including Japan, Singapore and Thailand were closed for a holiday.

The Australian share market closed a touch higher after late profit-taking on some of last week's stellar performers countered morning gains. South Korea's Kospi Index also closed almost flat, with some foreign buying lifting tech stocks.

Taiwan shares kicked off 2007 with a 1.24% gain as tech heavyweights like Mediatek, riding on a consumer boom, pushed the market to its highest close in more than six years.

And Hong Kong stocks closed sharply higher, lifted by demand for property shares and Chinese companies with A-share listing prospects. Blue chips were also stronger.