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European Closing Update: Stocks Head Into the Green

After seeing a morning rally fizzle, London eked out some gains. Tech gains sent continental bourses bopping higher.
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LONDON -- The early, near 100-point gain in London this morning disappeared in a puff of smoke as investors checked to see whether alarms were going off in Wall Street.

Although there wasn't any actual outbreak of fire in the U.S., with the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

firm by the London close, investors decided that outside looked a lot less hot than inside, and it's better to be safe than sorry.

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The

FTSE 100

ended 21.20 points, or 0.3%, higher at 6,289.70, as strong gains in the media sector all but vanished.

BSkyB

was riding higher at 15.75 pounds this morning but closed down 58.5, or 4.1%, at 13.81 pounds, while

Pearson

totally erased a 139p gain to end unchanged at 20.92 pounds.

The sector overheated this morning as

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

, which announced record profits for the fourth quarter of this morning, admitted it has had discussions with Rupert Murdoch's men-in-black about some kind of tie-up. Nokia shares climbed 5.48, or 3%, to 188.50 euros.

Meanwhile, France's

Lafarge

is happily stacking bricks but someone has stolen the cement, with bid target

Blue Circle Industries

rejecting its offer as "clearly opportunistic and under prepared". BCI closed up 23.5p, or 5.7%, to 443.

Still on the building site, someone shouted "Timber!" this morning as

Meyer International

was lumbered with an agreed offer from those Frenchmen again,

St Gobain

. Meyer jumped 75.5p, or 17.7%, to 502.

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Report

, not content with bidding for

Mannesmann

(MNNSY)

and getting into bed with

Vivendi

(VVDIY)

, announced an alliance with

Casio

. Their new product does just about everything Internet related, except make toast, according to Vodafone. Vodafone gained 21.5p, or 6.4%, to 360.

Reports that Vodafone may offer Mannesmann an extra amount, though not 50%, of a merged company should the German telecom accept Vodafone's hostile takeover bid also helped both stocks. Mannesmann closed 16.05 higher, or 5.7%, to 296.30 euros.

Is it going to be a Valentine Day's massacre for one or the other of the Scottish banks? Feb. 14 is the day when

National Westminster

(NW)

finds out whether it remains independent or is renamed NatMcWest. The protagonists are currently not finding favor with investors.

Royal Bank of Scotland

lost 31p, or 3.1%, to 971,

Bank of Scotland

ended 21.5p, or 3.5%, lower at 598.5, while NatWest dipped 18p to 11.70 pounds.

The continent made solid gains, although some investors were held back by worries over the

Federal Open Market Committee

and

European Central Bank

meetings this week. The

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt closed up 214.86, or 3.14%, at 7050.46 and the

CAC 40

in Paris finished 113.61 higher, or 2%, at 5773.42.

Technology shares led the way in Frankfurt, as both business software maker

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

closed up 29.50, or 3.8%, at 813. Shares of leading e-commerce software maker

Intershop Communications

jumped 25, or 8.5%, to 320 euros in Frankfurt, after investors shrugged off the firm's increasing losses and focused instead on the company's surging fourth-quarter revenues.

Other telecom shares tagged along for the ride and were also able to finish the session higher.

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

rose 5.60, or 8%, to 75 euros and

France Telecom

(FTE)

closed 4.3 higher, or 3.25%, to 136.80 euros.