LONDON -- Europe's markets were trading in narrow ranges midday Thursday, with oil stocks, which are rising on the back of firm crude prices, helping offset weakness in the tech sector. Following the
Bank of England's
decision to keep its benchmark rate at 6%, the
was down 16.80 points to 6677.90.
grabbed the spotlight after an early profit warning early, causing the shares to slump by 35.25% to 169p ($2.43) in very heavy volume. No doubt a few brave bargain hunters will be tempted to dip their toes in the water, but a word of warning: The technical outlook is bleak and the shares need to recover back above 200p in the near term for the picture to improve.
As few expected any move from the BoE, banks held relatively steady. Global giant
hit another historic high. The shares touched
10.30, but fell back to stand up 1p at
, another former colonial bank, got a minor boost after
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
raised its price target to
10.50. Shares rose 5p to
slipped 7p to 234, following a bearish note from
Credit Suisse First Boston
. The broker downgraded the stock to "hold" from "buy" following Wednesday's annual general meeting.
hit a new high of 682p, before slipping back to 672, a gain of 15p.
spurted up to a stratospheric 620p, before easing to 615.5, a rise of 9.5p.
Although Footsie leviathan
pushed higher, gaining 4p to 286, the telecom sector was weak.
fell another 23p to 827. Traders were at a loss to explain the weakness, which looks like it was triggered by stop-loss selling as the stock fell back below 850p.
Cable & Wireless
also found itself out of favor, as the shares slipped 61p to
Tech stocks floated in a sea of red, as the
again fell below the key psychological level 4000, down 73.54 points to 3947.29.
got hit with a double whammy Thursday, following the downgrade for its parent Dixons and the weakness last night in the
. Midday, the shares were down 14p to 306.
Europe's other major stock markets were also trading narrowly Thursday, as the
in Paris was up 2.28 to 6799.07 and the
in Frankfurt was down 20.55 to 7312.47. The
index was 4.2 higher to 6298.4.
Telcos were mixed, as
climbed 1.70 euros to 145.30 ($126.49), having reported solid first-half results after the market close Wednesday.
fell 0.60 euro to 45.96, after its proposed merger with
Paris-listed network services outfit
rose 0.8 euro to 53.00 after it was reported that France Telecom was considering presenting itself as an alternative to a merger with
French oil company
Total Fina Elf
rose 1.77 euros to 184.20.
lost 3.30 euros to hit 179.69,
fell 2.24 euros to 109.60 and software maker
slipped 4.23 euros to 289.88.