By Sarah Turner
European shares ended mixed Thursday, as gains for technology firms were offset by losses in financial and chemical stocks.
The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index set a fresh 2009 high in early trading but then weakened to end 0.2% higher at 240.44. At the regional level, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index fell 0.3% to end at 4987.68 following an as-expected decision from the Bank of England to keep interest rates unchanged. The French CAC-40 Index lost 0.05% to 3705.87 while the German DAX closed up 0.4% at 5594.77.
The technology sector made gains in Europe, tracking an advance in the U.S. after Texas Instruments /zigman2/quotes/202237907/composite TXN -0.31% lifted its outlook. Following suit, shares in ASML Holding /zigman2/quotes/206208657/delayed NL:ASML +1.10% added 2.1% after the Dutch semiconductor equipment maker raised its third-quarter forecast. SAP /zigman2/quotes/203458330/delayed DE:SAP -0.46% rose 2.7%, STMicroelectronics gained 2%, Infineon Technologies /zigman2/quotes/204995926/delayed DE:IFX +0.94% rose 3% and Nokia /zigman2/quotes/207421390/composite NOK +1.28% added 0.9%.
Stephen Taylor, strategist at Dolmen Securities, said he is overweight on the sector as he believes it is the safest way to a play a recovery in the global economy "given the strong balance sheets that the majority of companies have."
In the retail sector, Arcandor shares jumped 9.8% after its 43.9% stake in U.K. travel firm Thomas Cook was placed and raised £904 million ($1.5 billion) for the bankrupt retailer. Thomas Cook shares rose 4.6%.
However, the broader market environment isn't looking as good for retailers, at least for the U.K. food sector, according to analysts at Barclays Wealth.
"We don't believe that the U.K. food retail sector looks particularly attractive at the moment. Food inflation is rapidly dissipating and the consumer is not out of the woods yet," they said.
Morrison Supermarkets /zigman2/quotes/205533138/delayed UK:MRW -1.58% shares fell 0.3% after it said it expects market growth to slow in the second half of 2009 as inflationary pressures ease.
Elsewhere, Natra shares fell 10.2% in Madrid after talks between the firm and Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut to merge their European consumer operations ended after the parties weren't able to agree terms. Barry Callebaut shares edged lower.
Spanish banks were also lower, with Santander shares down 1.8% and BBVA shares down 1.7%.
Chemical firms came under pressure, with agrichemicals firm Syngenta down 3% after rival Monsanto said its fiscal-year earnings for 2009 and 2010 would be below Wall Street expectations due to lower herbicide sales.
Asian equity markets ended higher, while stocks got off to softer start on Wall Street.
Write to Sarah Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org