European Closing Update: Markets End Week with Modest Gains - TheStreet

LONDON -- Europe's equity markets posted modest gains Friday, as many investors decided the best policy was to sit on their hands as events in the Middle East continued to hang over the region's bourses. The U.K.'s

FTSE 100

staged an impressive fight back from its session lows after falling to 6,050.70 in the morning, eventually closing 77.70 points higher at 6,209.60.

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

lost its position as the U.K.'s biggest company Thursday to

BP

(BP) - Get Report

. But Friday, the company mounted an impressive fight back and regained the top spot. At the close, Vodafone finished 20.75p higher at 257.75 ($3.78), enough to add 56 points to the main index. Today's rise gave the company a provisional market cap of

158.4 billion. Vodafone appeared to have been helped by buzz that it was about to seriously expand its retail network.

In contrast, BP found itself savagely marked down. The shares tumbled 12p to 634.5, giving the company a provisional market cap of

143.2 billion.

Shell

(SC) - Get Report

also found itself sliding, and the shares closed down 15p at 596. A drop in crude seemed to have done the damage. As London closed, front-month Brent was trading 64 cents lower at $30.83.

Barclays

(BCS) - Get Report

was one of the day's outstanding stocks as it apparently remained aloof from the surrounding turmoil. Why? Well the most plausible reason is that the self-proclaimed big bank is about to get bigger.

Merrill Lynch

reckons that as a result of Barclays' looming takeover of the

Woolwich

, tracker funds will soon have to buy Barclays because of its increased weighting. Funds benchmarked to

Morgan Stanley Capital International

indices will also have to take this into account.

According to Merrill, MSCI passive investors will have to buy around five million Barclays' shares. As a result, perhaps, Barclays closed 79p higher at

17.70. However, sources said that the MSCI changes alone were not enough to account for Friday's rally.

Elsewhere in the banking sector,

HSBC

(HBC)

also bounced nicely off its lows. Shares closed up 20p at 934, after earlier hitting a session low of 891.

Overall, it wasn't too bad a session for tech-media-telecom stocks. The

techMARK 100

managed to claw its way back after standing down at one time a hefty 120.59 points at 3,281. It eventually closed at 3,416.14, a gain of 14.55 points on the day.

British Telecom

(BTY)

had a massive turnaround. After plummeting to an intraday and two-year low of 662p, the stock rebounded to close up 32p at 722. Among the tech stocks,

Logica

fell to

18.52, before closing up 41p at

20.01.

Bookham Technologies

(BKHM)

also had a nice reversal, rising from a low of

21.50 to close at

23.08, a fall of 63p.

Europe's other major stock markets also ended the week on a positive note Friday, as the

CAC 40

in Paris closed up 73.5, or 1.2%, at 6,064.2 and the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was up 134.4, or 2.1%, at 6,599.6 late in the German trading day. The Neuer Markt's tech-heavy

Nemax 50

index climbed 39.5, or 0.9%, at 4,258.6.

German blue-chip techs experienced a technical rebound after getting hammered in recent days.

Infineon

(IFX)

surged 3.55 euros, or 7.4%, to 51.39 ($44.30),

Siemens

(SMWAY)

jumped 8 euros, or 5.7%, to 147.40 and

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

rocketed 17.60 euros, or 7.8%, to 243.40.

Telecom shares across the Continent finished mixed, as

France Telecom

(FTE)

erased early losses to close up 2.80 euros, or 2.8%, to 101.0,

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

was up 1.25 euros, or 3.5%, at 37.15 and

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Report

closed off 0.62 euros, or 2.8%, at 21.33.

Carmakers performed well Friday, as

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

rose 1.71 euros, or 3.3%, to 53.31 and

Volkswagen

(VLKAY)

climbed 2.15 euros, or 4%, to 55.80.

So has realism returned to the market? It's too early to say. As one trader said today, everything today was "squeezy". In other words, punters chased the market down and then chased it higher. But one thing is clear: things looked far better at the close than they did at the open.