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Hitt og þetta 16. febrúar 2006

DJ EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

AMERICAN MARKETS OUTLOOK: U.S. stock markets are expected to open mixed Wednesday, as the focus turns to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony to the U.S. Congress later in the session and to crude oil price movements.

"Crude will most probably rally slightly, pushing the Dow into the red slightly," says Anthony Hill, analyst at FSW Europe. "But a late-afternoon rally and the willingness of Wall Street to close the week above 11,000 will push the rally through to the weekend."

Nortel, Expedia, Genzyme, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Network Appliances and AIG are among companies set to post financial results Wednesday. Economic data due for release include MBA mortgage applications, the Empire State index and crude oil stocks.

FSW Europe is calling the Dow Jones Industrial Average to open down 13 points at 11,015 and the Nasdaq up three points at 2265.

EUROPEAN MARKETS: European shares are hovering either side of flat midday. In London, the FTSE 100 is up 0.1% at 5799.30, following what analysts interpreted as a fairly neutral inflation report from the Bank of England. In Frankfurt,the DAX is up 0.1% at 5766.82 as investors act cautiously ahead of Bernanke's testimony, due at 1500 GMT. In Paris, the CAC is down 0.2% at 4950.28.

Bunds and gilts remain under pressure, with the main focus on Bernanke's speech. The March bund future is down 0.07 at 120.26, while the March gilt is down 0.08 at 113.86. In the currency market, anticipation that Bernanke will give a fairly hawkish testimony to Congress after Tuesday's strong U.S. retail sales figures is pushing the dollar a little higher. The dollar is up at Y117.52, while the euro is down at $1.1912 and the pound a touch firmer at $1.7401.

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TOP STORIES:

TOTAL (TOT) 2005 NET PROFIT UP 13%; DIVIDEND TO RISE 20%: Total SA reported a record net profit of EUR12.3 billion for the full year 2005, up 13% from the previous year, on rising oil prices and solid refining margins. (News Snap By Anne-Sylvaine Chassany)

EU CONFIRMS BIRD FLU FOUND IN GERMANY: The European Commission confirmed reports of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in swans on Rugen, a German island in the Baltic Sea. (By Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck)

BOE SEES INFLATION CLOSE TO 2.0% TARGET: The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee said it expects the inflation rate to remain close to its 2.0% target over the next two years. (By Andrew Peaple and Paul Hannon)

INTERVIEW: MITTAL: ARCELOR FORMAL DEAL STEPS WITHIN 2 WKS: World-number-one steelmaker Mittal Steel Co. (MT) said it expects a formal deal process to start within two weeks for its EUR18.6-billion ($22.15 billion) hostile bid for world-number-two steelmaker Arcelor (5786.FR). (By Jackie Range)

CREDIT SUISSE (CSR) 4Q NET RISES 15%: Credit Suisse Group posted a 15% rise in fourth-quarter net profit, and said it will hike its payout to shareholders. (News Snap By Katharina Bart)

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INSIGHT & ANALYSIS FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES:

=FOREX FOCUS: Repatriation flows may help the yen over the next few weeks but there isn't any reason to believe they will boost the currency's longer-term fortunes. (By Nicholas Hastings)

=CHARTING EUROPE: April COMEX gold futures are likely to rise again in the days to come after declining in a three-wave ABC correction from this year's 24-year high at $579.5. (By Axel Rudolph)

=THE SKEPTIC: The sight of nearly all the world's major investment banks lining up on either side of the Mittal Steel-Arcelor takeover battle tellingly suggests the Luxembourg-based steel maker is out there on its own. (By Matthew Curtin)

=THE SKEPTIC: The charitable view of the stock market's disappointment with Credit Suisse's latest batch of numbers is that investors underestimated the costs of its "one bank" project. (By Matthew Curtin)

=ASSET CLASS: The hefty rise in U.S. retail sales during January shows that, overleveraged as he may be, the U.S. consumer continues to be indomitable. (By Alen Mattich)

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STILL TO COME

ET/GMT COUNTRY/PERIOD

0700/1200 US Feb 10 MBA Refinancing Index
0830/1330 US Feb NY Fed Manufacturing Index
0900/1400 US Dec Treasury Intl Capital Flows
0915/1415 US Jan Indus Production
0915/1415 US Jan Capacity Utilization
1000/1500 US Fed Chairman Bernanke testifies on
the Fed's semi-annual monetary policy
report before the US House Financial
Services Committee
1030/1530 US Feb 10 US Energy Dept Gasoline Stocks
1030/1530 US Feb 10 US Energy Dept Crude Oil Stocks
1030/1530 US Feb 10 US Energy Dept Distillate Stocks
1030/1530 US Tsy Secy Snow testifies before US
House Ways & Means panel on FY 2007
budget in Washington
1215/1715 US Pres Bush speaks on health care in
Dublin, Ohio
1300/1800 US Feb NAHB Housing Index
1850/2350 JPN Weekly Portfolio Flows

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OTHER NEWS:

BNP Paribas SA (13110.FR) France's biggest bank by market capitalization, said strong revenue growth from its international retail business and corporate investment bank helped lift 2005 fourth-quarter net profit 15.1% from a year ago. (News Snap By Digby Larner)

The U.K.'s widely watched claimant count jobless figure dropped by 2,000 in January, the first time it has declined in a year, National Statistics said.(Data Snap By Corey Boles)

French gas utility Gaz de France (1020848.FR) said fourth-quarter revenue jumped 37%, buoyed by higher gas prices a strong contribution from its energy supply division. (News Snap By David Roman)

Commerzbank AG (CBK.XE) posted an after-tax return-on-equity, excluding one-off gains, of 9.6% for 2005, beating its target of at least 8%. (News Snap By Scott Solano)

Commerzbank AG (CBK.XE) posted an after-tax return-on-equity, excluding one-off gains, of 9.6% for 2005, beating its target of at least 8%. (News Snap By Scott Solano )

Groupe Danone (12064.FR), the cookie, yogurt and bottled water company, reported higher-than-expected net profit for 2005 and was upbeat for the current year thanks to its increased focus on health food markets. (News Snap By Greg Keller)

FoereningsSparbanken AB (FSPA-A.SK) posted a 24.6% jump in fourth-quarter net profit, fueled by good commission income from card payments as well as increased lending and deposit volumes. (News Snap By Louise Nordstrom)