December 22, 2014
European shares edge higher, Novartis leads drugmakers
European shares edged higher to close near a recent one-month peak today, with merger and acquisition speculation about British broadcaster ITV helping media stocks and Novartis leading drugmakers.
Novartis, up 4.3 percent, was the top gainer on the FTSEurofirst 300 index on news a new medicine from the company could replace drugs that have been central to treating heart disease for a quarter of century. The Novartis advance helped the STOXX Europe 600 Healthcare index to gain the most of any sector, at 1.1 percent.
ITV led the European media index higher, up 0.8 percent. The Telegraph reported that Liberty Global was canvassing support from major ITV shareholders after it acquired a 6.4 percent stake, raising speculation of a full takeover bid. ITV declined to comment.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index ended 0.2 percent higher at 1,376.83 points, just below last week's one-month high. The Euro STOXX 50, which will add Nokia from Sept. 22, replacing CRH after an index reshuffle, was up 0.1 percent. CRH fell 0.7 percent and Nokia dropped 1.4 percent.
Meanwhile, Japanese shares edged up in thin trade after investors bought some mid- and small-cap shares, but gains were capped by Japan's economic recovery from April's tax hike may be weaker than initially thought.
The Nikkei share average ended 0.3 percent higher to 15,476.60.
The broader Topix rose 0.4 percent to 1,283.06 and the new JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 0.4 percent to 11,635.03.
On the main board, only 1.81 billion shares changed hands, the fewest since August 25.