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The Deal: European Stocks Follow Asian Stocks Higher

LONDON (The Deal) -- European markets opened in a positive mood on Monday after a stronger performance in Asia overnight and with some spillover remaining from Wall Street's performance on Friday. There's also a mood of anticipation -- though in emerging markets it's more a mood of gloom -- ahead of the new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's first testimony to Congress Tuesday and Thursday.

But London was held back by a fall in big utility stocks, after U.K. energy secretary Ed Davey called for radical thinking from power and gas industry regulators and hinted that the nation's biggest gas supplier, British Gas, could be broken up. Gas prices and the cost of heating the home are a hot-button political issue in Britain.

Davey also called for an investigation into the level of profits -- and prices -- at Centrica and another gas supplier SSE, claiming they were out of line with those at the rest of the industry. Centrica which owns British Gas, was down nearly 3% mid-morning at 304.9 pence a share, while SSE was down over 1.3% at 1,339 pence.

On the bright side, though, precious metal stocks held the market up, with Mexican silver-miner Fresnillo and South Africa's Randgold Resources, both traded in London, up 3.7% and 1.8% respectively.

In Paris, cosmetics and shampoo group L'Oreal was up 5% ahead of annual figures this evening and renewed speculation that Swiss food giant Nestle is looking for ways to reduce its 29% stake in the French company.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.18% mid-morning at 6584, in Paris, the CAC 40 was up 0.49% at 4249 and in Frankfurt, the DAX was up 0.45% at 9343.

Over in Asia, the Nikkei closed up 1.77% at 14,718 on a weaker yen, which boosts exports, even though Japan's trade deficit has been growing to record levels. And in China, the Shanghai Composite jumped 2% after the Beijing government said it would prolong subsidies for electric cars in its fight against pollution.

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