*

Hitt og þetta 27. febrúar 2006

DJ EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

AMERICAN MARKETS OUTLOOK: U.S. stock markets are expected to open higher Friday.

Finspreads in London is calling the Dow Jones Industrial Average 20 points higher to 11090, the S&P 500 up two points at 1289.8 and the NASDAQ 100 up two at 1674. The DJIA could head towards 11250 level but only if the S&P stops its current decline, said Angus Campbell at Finspreads. The S&P failed to push beyond resistance at 1294 in the last session, forming a double top which is considered a seriously bearish signal and, if not broken over the next few days, could mean lower prices throughout March and into the summer.

On the macroeconomic front U.S. January durable goods orders at 1330 GMT are forecast to drop 2.5% in January, largely reflecting a falloff in volatile civilian aircraft orders.

EUROPEAN MARKETS are higher across the board around midday.

The FTSE 100 is up 0.34% at 5855.70, the DAX is up 0.10% at 5863.96 and the CAC is up 0.2% at 5052.46.

In London, Lloyds TSB and WPP provided a lift for the U.K. stock market as both companies' above-consensus results put them straight at the top of the leaderboard. U.K. bank Lloyds TSB rose 4%, despite a further deterioration in the retail credit environment during the first half of the year.

On the fixed income market, bunds and gilts are marking time ahead of U.S. durable goods data. The March bund future is down 0.05 at 120.42 and the March gilt is down -0.03 at 114.12.

The dollar is mixed, down against the yen at Y116.63 as the yen gets another lift from renewed speculation over an early shift in Bank of Japan policy. However, the U.S. currency is a touch firmer against European currencies, with the euro down a little at $1.1904 and the pound weaker at $1.7484.

===========================

TOP STORIES:

Lloyds TSB (LYG) said net profit rose 4% in 2005, as the bank made more money by collecting interest payments while keeping costs under control. Pretax pre-exceptional profit, the number most closely watched by U.K. analysts, rose 10.7% to GBP3.82 billion from GBP3.45 billion, beating the average forecast of GBP3.35 billion. (News Snap by Sarah Spikes)

National Grid PLC said it was talking with KeySpan Corp. about a potential transaction. If agreed, any transaction would be on an all cash basis, satisfied wholly from borrowings.

A group of seven private-equity firms is poised to submit a firm bid to acquire VNU NV for about 7.2 billion euros ($8.6 billion), beginning a tug-of-war over the Dutch publisher and market-research giant as the company's board weighs whether to recommend the buyout even though VNU's biggest shareholders say the bid is too low. (WSJ)

============================

INSIGHT & ANALYSIS FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES:

=FOREX FOCUS: Once again the yen appears set to break out on the upside. But again, the Japanese currency is more likely to disappoint as the market waits for confirmation that the Bank of Japan will be easing its five-year-old policy of pumping liquidity into its money markets. (By Nicholas Hastings)

=CHARTING EUROPE: April IPE Brent crude oil prices are likely to rise again after having declined from this week's $61.75 high to Thursday's $59.81 intraday low. (By Axel Rudolph)

=THE SKEPTIC: Solid if somewhat boring is probably the best description of Lloyds TSB's FY05 results. Scattered throughout is a mix of good and bad news that for investors means the continuing attraction of Lloyds TSB stock is confined to a 7% yield and takeover prospects. (By Howard Wheeldon)

=THE SKEPTIC: Germany's Ifo index hit a 15-year high in February, but are economic prospects really as bright as the index suggests? It seems amazing that the sentiment at German companies now is better than at the height of the New Economy boom in 2000, when GDP grew by more than 3%. (By Peter Trautmann)

=FOCUS: Bank Sarasin & Cie's (BSAN.EB) new management is likely to seek growth by expanding in long-neglected markets of Asia and the Middle East, analysts said, but they added that the prospects are uncertain because of heated competition in the regions, both for clients and for advisers. (By Katharina Bart)

=FOCUS: A lull in gold's recent volatility is likely to see further consolidation as the metal seeks a base to launch fresh upside raids, market participants said. (By James Attwood)

===========================

STILL TO COME

ET/GMT COUNTRY/PERIOD
0715/1215 EU ECB Member Issing speaks on currencies in Vienna
0830/1330 US Jan Durable Goods
0830/1330 GER Fin Min Steinbrueck gives opening speech,
ECB Pres Trichet speaks at the Aspen Institute
conference
1730/2230 US Fed Chmn Bernanke speaks in Princeton, N.J.
===========================

OTHER NEWS:

Spanish-Argentine oil and energy company Repsol YPF SA (REP) said its net profit more than doubled in the fourth quarter, with strong refining operations offsetting another consecutive quarter of declining oil and gas production. (News Snap by Andres Cala)

French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis SA (SNY) said fourth quarter net profit fell sharply because of charges related to Sanofi's purchase of rival Aventis in August 2004. (News Snap by Greg Keller)

U.K. retailer J Sainsbury PLC (SBRY.LN) said it will raise up to GBP2.07 billion of secured debt, the bulk of which will be used to buy back unsecured bonds, while GBP350 million will be injected into its pension schemes. (News Snap by Lilly Vitorovich)

British Energy (BGY.LN) posted stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit before tax and exceptional items, boosted by high electricity prices and increased output from its power stations, despite frequent outages. (News Snap by Hyun Young Lee)

Capitalia SpA (CAP.MI) said that full-year net profit more than trebled thanks to lower provisions, cost cutting and non-recurring trading gains from the listing of Parmalat SpA (PLT.MI). (News Snap by Sabrina Cohen)

U.K. advertising company WPP Group PLC (WPPGY) posted a 36% jump in 2005 pretax profit and raised its margin targets slightly after giving an upbeat outlook for revenues this year. (News Snap by Jessica Hodgson)

Davis Service Group PLC (DVSG.LN) reported a 9% rise in full year pretax profit from continuing operations before amortization, with strength on the continent able to offset weak U.K. customer markets. (News Snap by Henry Teitelbaum)

Belgian telecommunications incumbent Belgacom SA (BELG.BT), battered by pressure on both its fixed and mobile operations, posted a modest 4% rise in net profit last year. (News Snap by William Echkison)

Strong growth in the U.K.'s services sector has led to upwardly revised estimates of the country's economic performance in the last quarter of 2005. (Data Snap by Andrew Peaple)

Consumer prices in the German state of Bavaria rose in line with expectations in February, with the monthly rise helped by seasonal price increases. (Data Snap by Jennifer Letki)

Consumer prices in the German state of Hesse rose more sharply than expected on the month in February, boosted by seasonal price increases. (Data Snap by Jennifer Letki)

Consumer prices in the German state of Saxony rose more strongly than expected in February, up 0.5% on the month after falling 0.4% on the month in January. (Data Snap by Jennifer Letki)

Switzerland's KOF economic growth indicator grew to 1.30 in February from a revised 1.26 in January, pointing to a further improvement in growth prospects. (Data Snap by Martin Gelnar)