There had been some pessimism at start of play Friday, as observers expected the profit-taking that marked Europe's worst start to a new year for five years to continue. But strong figures from the likes of clothing chain Next in London and news that George Soros has followed Bill Gates in taking a stake in Spanish construction and group Fomento de Concstrucciones y Contratas, or FCC, as well as a big fall in Spanish unemployment in December, helped improve the mood. That was despite continued headwinds for rival Spanish construction and infrastructure giant Sacyr, which is in dispute with Panama over the rising price of widening the Panama Canal.
With the stronger U.S. dollar and the slowdown in China now spreading to the service sector, greater China markets have been feeling the pinch. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed down 2.24% at 22,817.28. And in Taiwan, the news that German-owned derivatives exchange Eurex is taking a 5% stake in the Taipei futures market operator failed to stop the main index there falling 0.14% on the day to 8,611.51.