The Deal: European Stocks Rise, Led by Banks

LONDON ( The Deal) -- European stocks headed higher in early trading Thursday, with banks leading the way in London and Frankfurt, almost despite the less-than-encouraging news from other parts of the economy.
 
London's FTSE 100 was up almost 0.3% at 6693, with Lloyds Bank the best performer in the banking sector at 79.43 pence, up nearly 2%. Advertising and marketing group WPP was the biggest riser overall, after it announced revenue growth in the fourth quarter at 5%, well above analysts' forecasts. But retailers were in a swoon, after Britain's biggest department store group Debenhams reported falling profits and said it was cautious about any consumer-led recovery going into 2014.
 
In Germany, the DAX index was up nearly 0.5% at 8963.5%, led by lender Commerzbank which was up nearly 2.7% at 9.6 euros. Analysts at Exane BNP Paribas said the Frankfurt bank was well placed to pass new European Central Bank stress tests and put an outperform tag on the stock. Car maker Daimler reported better-than-expected earnings and also rose about 2.5%. And shares in pharmaceutical wholesaler Celesio were driven up on the announcement that San Francisco health care group McKesson ( MCK) will buy just over half the company for 23 euros a share. The deal values Celesio at about $8.3 billion.
 
But the bad news came from the Market Purchasing Managers survey, which was down on last month in for the Eurozone as a whole -- and seemed to indicate the economic recovery remained fragile. What's more data also showed shakier confidence in Germany, France and Italy.
 
In Asia, the Nikkei 225 closed up a little over 0,4% at 14,486.41, after bouncing back from a two-week low earlier in the day. The region's been concerned over a liquidity crunch in the China economy, but also gained some comfort from good figures from China's manufacturing sector. Those figures also helped boost the European markets this morning.
 
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down by 0.7%, despite news of potential bids by mainland Chinese banks for a couple of smaller Hong Kong lenders, Wing Hang Bank and Chong Hing Bank.

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