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Hitt og þetta 18. apríl 2006

DJ EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

AMERICAN MARKETS OUTLOOK: U.S. stock markets are set to open slightly higher Tuesday, as investors focus on the first companies to report first-quarter earnings, says trader Claire Collingwood at CMC Markets.

Boston Scientific, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Mattel and Pepsi Bottling are among companies set to post results Tuesday. March producer price index numbers and housing starts will also be under scrutiny, Collingwood says.

"PPI (today) and CPI (tomorrow) are expected to point to rising headline inflation as gasoline prices rose by more than 6% in March," says Angus Campbell at FinSpreads. "The market will not want to see anything higher than expected for fear of further interest rate hikes later in the year."

Finspreads is calling the Dow Jones Industrial Average to open up 10 points at 11,083, the S&P up 1 at 1286.3 and the Nasdaq 100 flat.

EUROPEAN MARKETS: European stock markets are mixed on rising commodity prices, after a four-day break, with one of the largest companies, Philips Electronics, edging lower after its first-quarter profit came in at the bottom end of forecasts.

In London, the FTSE 100 is up 0.4% at 6051.5, with buoyant commodities prices boosting oil and mining stocks and with airport operator BAA climbing on further bid talk. In Frankfurt, the DAX 30 is down 0.7% at 5877.6 in thin trade, weighed down by Wall Street's weak performance Monday and cautious sentiment due to the Iran situation and rising crude oil prices. In Paris, the CAC 40 is down 0.3% at 5088.9.

Bunds and gilts are higher, tracking Monday's gains in Treasurys as international oil prices chalk up record highs on Iran tensions. The lack of significant euro-zone economic data leaves the focus on U.S. housing starts and producer prices scheduled for release at 1230 GMT. June bunds are up 0.24 at 115.82, while June gilts are up 0.19 at 110.74.

The dollar is mixed as the currency rebounds from losses sustained in thin trading at the start of the week. As many players returned from Easter holidays, the U.S. currency was pushed a little higher, but is expected to remain vulnerable as crude prices have rallied to record highs over $70/bbl and the markets prepare for the release of the latest Federal Reserve meeting minutes that could show a more dovish tone. The dollar has edged up to Y117.97, despite expectations President Hu's visit to Washington will keep upward pressure on the yuan this week. The euro is flat at $1.2259 while the pound is up at $1.7716.

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TOP STORIES:

PHILIPS 1Q NET PROFIT +37%, CONFIDENT ON OUTLOOK: Royal Philips Electronics NV (PHG) posted a 37% rise in first-quarter net profit and said it's on track to meet its sales and profit margin targets. (News Snap by Stefan Simons)

NYMEX CRUDE MAKES FRESH RECORD HIGH ON IRAN: Front-month Nymex crude futures set a fresh all-time record due to speculators remaining jittery about Iran's nuclear standoff with the West and the prospect of supply disruptions. (Oil Futures by Tim Falconer)

VNU SEES ENOUGH HOLDERS TO SUPPORT BID: VNU NV (38987.AE), the Dutch publisher of marketing information, expects adequate support for the EUR28.75 a share-bid it accepted from a private equity group earlier this year, Chief Financial Officer Rob Ruijter, told Dow Jones Newswires. He was speaking ahead of an exceptional shareholders meeting due later Tuesday where the bid will be discussed. (Interview by Tjeerd Wiersma and Arien Stuyt)

EIRCOM CONFIRMS BABCOCK, ESOT OFFER: Eircom Group PLC (EIR.DB) confirmed it has received a EUR2.20 a share approach from Babcock & Brown Capital Ltd. (BCM.AU) and Eircom's Employee Share Ownership Trust, or ESOT, valuing it at EUR2.36 billion. (News Snap by Quentin Fottrell)

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INSIGHT & ANALYSIS FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES:

=FOREX FOCUS: Merger and acquisition flows and a renewed bout of dollar weakness may be giving sterling some brief relief but fundamentals continue to suggest that the pound should fall. (By Nicholas Hastings)

=FOCUS: Like Queen Elizabeth I, the London Stock Exchange PLC (LSE.LN) has refused to give up its independence despite receiving multiple marriage proposal. (By Nicole Lee)

=THE SKEPTIC: Vladimir Lisin has finally lived up to his billing and done right by the people who bought shares in his Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK.RS) last year. (By Geoffrey T. Smith)

=THE SKEPTIC: Goldman Sachs may have undershot the runway in its first approach to BAA but rest assured it's almost bound to circle around and try again. (By Howard Wheeldon)

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STILL TO COME

ET/GMT COUNTRY/PERIOD
0745/1145 US Apr 15 ICSC Store Sales Index
0800/1200 US Asst Tsy Secy Henry addresses
Atlanta Fed conference

0830/1230 US March Housing Starts
0830/1230 US March PPI
0830/1230 US March PPI, ex-food and energy
0855/1255 US Apr 15 Redbook Retail Sales Index
1105/1505 US Chicago Fed Pres Moskow speaks at
auto industry conference in Detroit

1110/1510 US Pres Bush meets Lebanon PM Saniora
in Washington

1145/1545
US San Francisco Fed Pres Yellen speaks
on econ outlook in San Jose, Calif.

1200/1600 US Tsy Secy Snow speaks in Manchester,
N.H.

1330/1730 US
Fed Gov Warsh speaks at Atlanta Fed
conference

1355/1755 US Pres Bush speaks on US
competitiveness in Rockville, Md.

1400/1800 US Mar 28 FOMC Minutes

1700/2100 US Apr 16 ABC/Washington Post Consumer
Confidence Index

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OTHER NEWS: Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB (HM-B.SK)said sales at stores that have been open for longer than a year fell 8.0% in March from a year earlier, while total sales were unchanged. (News Snap by Maria Akerhielm)

Discount retailer Pyaterochka Holdings NV (FIVE.LN), which said last week it will merge with supermarket chain Perekryostok in Russia's biggest ever retail deal, Tuesday reported a 41% rise in first-quarter revenue as it boosted its presence in its core markets. (News Snap by Andrew Langley)

Online gaming giant PartyGaming PLC (PRTY.LN) reported a better-than-expected 54% jump in first quarter revenue after signing up a record number of new poker players, and said it remains confident of making good progress in 2006. (News Snap by Lilly Vitorovich)

Standard Life Assurance Co. (SLA.YY), Europe's largest mutual insurer, said it aims to raise GBP1.1 billion from a stock market flotation this year to help finance growth in the U.K. (News Snap by Victoria Howley) Russian steel maker OAO Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK.RS) reported a 21% drop in net profit for 2005, but raised its dividend by 65% and promised a more generous dividend policy in future. (News Snap by Geoffrey T. Smith)