European Closing Update: Markets Close out the Week Mixed - TheStreet

European Closing Update: Markets Close out the Week Mixed

Telefonica tanks as paper accuses chief of improper trading activities.
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LONDON -- European stocks closed out the week mixed.

After slipping into a coma for much of the day, London stocks ended with a mini-flourish. The

FTSE 100

closed 35.2 points higher, or 0.5%, at 6,526.

A confident trading statement sent

United News and Media

(UNEWY)

shares higher this morning, with the company reporting better-than-expected advertising growth and an improvement in its business services. United's share price retraced much of the gains, but still closed up 5p, or 0.6%, at 880 ($13.20).

Also in the media sector,

Pearson

finished 120p higher, or 9.6%, at

21.45 as it announced it is pushing quickly ahead with the flotation of its TV interest, which it recently merged with pan-European broadcaster

CLT-Ufa

.

Reuters

(RTRSY)

ended down 3p, or 0.1%, at

11.22.

Europe's other major stock markets were lower, with the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt in late trade down 66.6, or 0.9%, at 7,266.0 and the Neuer Markt's tech-heavy

Nemax 50

index down 27.6, or 0.5%, at 5,805.3. The

CAC 40

in Paris closed down 56.7, or 0.9%, 6,456.3.

In Frankfurt, the focus was on reports this morning that

Dresdner Bank

(DRSDY)

and

Commerzbank

(CRZBY)

, Germany's third- and fourth-largest banks, respectively, are in talks about a possible merger. Judging by past experience --

Deutsche Bank

(DBKAY)

and Dresdner pulled the plug on their merger only weeks after announcing it -- it would be a brave man who put bet the house on this actually happening, but there are hopes that this could finally be the merger that gets done.

Sadly, the early rise in financial stocks was about as lasting as the Deutsche-Dresdner merger, and by late afternoon Dresdner was down 0.30 euro, or 0.6%, at 47.10 and Deutsche was down 0.70 euro, or 1.0%, at 67.30. Commerzbank, however, managed to put the rest of the market to shame by rising 1.07 euros, or 2.7%, to 40.87.

A big brouhaha erupted when Spanish newspaper

El Mundo

reported that

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Report

chairman Juan Villalonga traded options on the company's shares without reporting this to the relevant authorities and, to make matters worse, while the Spanish telco was in talks with

MCI Worldcom

(WCOM)

. The company vigorously denied this, but the shares fell 1.10 euros, or 4.7%, to 22.10 ($21.22).

The decline in Telefonica weighed heavily on the Spanish market. The benchmark

Madrid General

finished down 12.40, or 1.2%, to 988.34.