LONDON (TheDeal) -- European markets were slightly more positive than those in East Asia or the U.S. overnight, as investors waited for the European Central Bank chief to set out details of the eurozone's €60 billion ($66.3 billion) quantitative easing program on Thursday. Investors in Europe were less spooked than those in Asia by China's downgrade of its official GDP growth target to "around 7%" from 7.5%.
London's FTSE 100 was up 0.18% at 6,931.66, while in Paris the CAC 40 rose 0.52% to 4,942.92. Frankfurt's DAX was up 0.40% to 11,435.72. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed up 0.26% at 18,751.84, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 1.11% to 24,193.04. The Shanghai Composite closed down 0.95% to 3,248.48.
Soon-to-be-merged insurersAviva (AV) and Friends Life were the top risers among the FTSE 100 this morning, as both companies released strong 2014 results and talked in relatively optimistic terms about the future of their retirement annuities business.
The annuities sector has been in turmoil since the government said last year that annual payment schemes are no longer compulsory for new retirees.
Aviva announced a 30% increase in its final dividend for the year to 12.25 pence a share. Aviva, which agreed in November to buy Friends for around $8 billion, was up 4.51% mid-morning at 556 pence. Friends was up 4.33% at 423.80 pence.
Shares in Iraqi Kurdistan-focused oil producerGenel Energy (GEGYF) , led by former BP (BP) - Get Report chief executive Tony Hayward, soared 8.02% to 606 pence in London this morning, depite the pretax loss of $312.8 million it announced for 2014. That's because Genel believes the new regulatory arrangements in Iraq mean the Kurdistan regional government will be able to make regular payments this year.
Genel also announced that earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortization and exploration costs were up 49% at $410.6 million. Genel has plans to boost production by 40%.
FTSE 250 Betting company Betfair (BTFRF) announced strong third-quarter profits and a 17% jump in EBITDA to £23.6 million, pushing its shares up 14.56% to £2,046 a share.
In Brussels, supermarket group Delhaize (DEG) , which operates the Food Lion and Hannaford chains in the U.S., was up 1.8% at €81.85, despite announcing declining full-year underlying operating profit in both its U.S. and Belgian markets. It said it was making progress in both key markets and proposed a slightly increased full-year dividend of €1.60 a share.