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LONDON -- When Alan Greenspan speaks, the world listens.

"It's definitely going to be a long day," moaned one senior trader, explaining that with the U.S.

Federal Reserve chairman due to speak to Congress later Thursday, volume in European markets was decidedly on the thin side.

Nevertheless, share prices in London were holding up well given the nasty overnight falls on Wall Street. By midmorning, the

FTSE 100

was up 18.1 points to 6483.5, and the


, to some extent reflecting the


fall, had eased 7.4 points to 3650.0.

British Airways

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dipped 5p lower to 383 ($5.71) after the U.S. administration warned that it would take action to prevent British Airways using its merger with



to get more access to U.S. airports unless an open skies agreement is reached with the U.K. Dorothy Robyn, a senior White House official, was quoted as saying "the U.S. will not allow British Airways to use a merger with KLM as a back door to achieve greater access to our market."

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Pharmaceutical shares fell after the U.S.


voted for drug-import legislation aimed at lowering drug prices.

Glaxo Wellcome


fell 15p to

18.02 and

Smithkline Beecham

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dipped 15p to 813.


argued investors should reduce holdings in both stocks.

Among the tech shares,


held steady at

10.11 ahead of a conference later Thursday to talk about the deal with

United States Cellular Corporation

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, which has chosen Sema's over-the-air-activation solution for its networks.

Credit Suisse First Boston

recommended Sema stock Thursday morning.

Most of Europe's other major stock markets were higher early, as the markets shrugged off the

European Central Bank's

decision on interest rates that will be made this afternoon. With the ECB expected to keep things on hold, the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt rose 40.92 to 7407.49 and the

CAC 40

in Paris gained 59.22 to 6554.33. The

Neuer Markt's


Nemax 50

index moved 4.0 higher to 6276.6.

Deutsche Telekom

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plummeted 2.45 euros to 57.95 amid reports it had launched a formal $53 billion bid for U.S. wireless operator



. While the price sounds steep to investors, it may be necessary to head off a bid from Japanese rival




Elsewhere in European telcos,

France Telecom


rose 3.40 euros to 154.40 and


(TEF) - Get Telefónica SA Report

rose 0.10 euro to 24.70.


climbed 1.35 euros to 90.75 before the midday trading start of its utilities unit Vivendi Environnement. Vivendi priced the shares last night at 34 euros each, below the midpoint of the price range of 33 to 36 euros.

In Frankfurt, big German technology shares were higher, with


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up 0.35 euro to 119.90 and


up 1.11 euros to 177.11. Hours before reporting second-quarter results software maker


(SAP) - Get SAP SE Report

rose 5.27 euros to 224.23.