Investor Alert

Feb. 9, 2006, 12:20 p.m. EST

Energy Stocks, Earnings Lift Markets

By Sarah Turner

European stocks pushed higher Thursday, helped by a positive start to trading on Wall Street, gains in the energy and metals sectors and some well-received earnings reports.

The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index rose 1.2% to 324.3, while the Dow Jones Euro Stoxx Index added 1.2% to 347.15. The Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 Index rose 1.5% to 3726.8, while the Dow Jones Stoxx 50 Index advanced 1.3% to 3453.6.

The German DAX Xetra 30 Index added 1.4% to 5743.68 and the French CAC-40 Index climbed 1.2% to 4955.74. The United Kingdom's FTSE-100 Index gained 1.3% to 5801.8, closing in on a new 44-month high.

Oil companies such as BP (LON:UK:BP) and Royal Dutch Shell (LON:UK:RDSB) , together with mining stocks BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto (LON:UK:RIO) , tracked higher in Europe, reversing recent declines amid higher metal and oil prices.

U.S. stocks also helped markets to gain ground after edging higher in opening trade as investors welcomed a brightening outlook for corporations.

European earnings from companies such consumer-products conglomerate Unilever and natural gas producer BG Group were also helping to support markets. Unilever added 1.8% after the Anglo-Dutch company returned to profitability in the fourth quarter as sales growth accelerated. BG Group showed strong gains, rising more than 9% in London after fourth-quarter profit more than doubled, helped by stronger gas prices and a 21% increase in production. It also lifted its earnings outlook to 2009.

French carmaker Renault swung to a 1% gain after falling as much as 5%, after launching an ambitious plan to turn itself into Europe's most profitable car company, while reporting a slump in 2005 operating margin.

Telecom stock BT Group turned the other direction, losing 1.7% after earlier gains. Britain's largest phone company said third-quarter net income dropped 37%. However, the profit decline wasn't as steep as analysts had expected as strong broadband sales bolstered the top line.

Drinks maker Pernod Ricard slid 5.7%. It said that first-half sales jumped 66.7% due to the contribution from Allied Domecq liquor brands acquired in July. Pernod Ricard peers Diageo (LON:UK:DGE) and Remy Cointreau were also lower in afternoon trade. U.K. supermarkets operator Tesco saw its shares fall 2% after it said that it intends to enter the U.S. market in 2007, via convenience stores.

Shares of Securitas (OME:SE:SECU.B) jumped around 11% after Swedish security company said that it will spin off three of its divisions. It also said that fourth-quarter sales rose 5%, while net income increased 8%.

Swiss agrichemicals group Syngenta rallied over 6% after saying it will return $800 million to shareholders in 2006 and reporting a 35% rise in 2005 profit.

Write to Sarah Turner at sarah.turner@dowjones.com

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