The Deal: European Stocks Rise Ahead of ECB Meeting

LONDON (The Deal) -- European stocks moved higher Thursday ahead of a rate-setting meeting at the eurozone's central bank but Asian stocks ended the day mostly in the red as weak producer price data from China stoked concern about the strength of the world's No. 2 economy.

In London by mid-morning, the FTSE was up 0.28% at 6,740.74 and in Frankfurt the DAX gained 0.40% to 9,536.17. In Paris, the CAC 40 edged 0.25% higher to 4,27166.

The European Central Bank will announce later whether it will lift rates from 0.25% after taking markets by surprise with a cut in November. Comments at an early-afternoon press conference from ECB President Mario Draghi will be closely watched.

In the U.K., a clutch of large retailers posted disappointing Christmas sales. Shares in WM Morrison Supermarkets, the No. 4 grocer, were down almost 6%, after it reported same-store sales over Christmas declined 5.6% and warned full-year profit would be at the lower end of expectations. Tesco, the No. 1 grocer and the leading retailer overall, also declined. But variety-store retailer Marks & Spencer rose despite yet another decline in same-store sales from clothing as Investec Bank upgraded its forecast to buy from hold, noting that the company's report revealed signs of progress in its womens wear operation.

In Helsinki, engineering company Wartsila was up almost 8% after it announced it had received a bid approach from the U.K.'s Rolls-Royce Holdings, whose 24 billion pounds ($39.5 billion) market value makes it about four times the size of its Finnish peer. Both companies said talks had now ended.

And in Frankfurt, shares in drugs distributor Celesio were down below the price of McKesson's (MCK) agreed offer despite a report that the San Francisco company had lifted its 6.1 billion ($8.3 billion) euros, or 23 euros-per-share, bid to win over recalcitrant hedge fund Elliott Management Corp.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed down 0.91% at 22,787.33, with mainland Chinese indices all closing lower. China's National Bureau of Statistics said that December producer prices were down 1.4% year-on-year, whereas the annual consumer price inflation rate slowed to 2.5% in December from 3%, below consensus forecasts.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei tumbled 1.5% to 15,880.33.

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