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Hitt og þetta 8. febrúar 2006

DJ EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

AMERICAN MARKETS OUTLOOK: U.S. stock markets are expected to open higher Wednesday, with investors' chief focus being crude oil inventories data set for release later in the session.

"If these supplies continue to build then we could expect to see lower crude prices which may give the market a much-needed boost, as long as heavyweight oil stocks don't experience too much selling," says Angus Campbell at Finspreads.

Cigna, Dean Foods, Lazard, PepsiCo, Reynolds American and News Corp. are among companies posting financial results Wednesday, while economic data also include MBA mortgage approvals.

Finspreads iscalling the Dow Jones Industrial Average to open 10 points higher at 10,760, the S&P 500 1.5 points higher at 1256.3 and the NASDAQ 100 up 10 points at 1652.

EUROPEAN MARKETS: European shares are mostly lower midday. In London, the FTSE 100 is down 0.4%, pressured by mining stocks, as commodity prices and a warning from an Australian steel-maker gave sector investors pause for thought. In Frankfurt, the DAX is down 0.6% following weak signals from U.S. and Asian markets. Bucking the trend, ProSieben rose 4.5% after higher-than-expected earnings. The FTSE 100 is down 0.4% at 5721.70, the DAX is down 0.6% at 5641.69, while the CAC is down 0.9% at 4893.53.

Bunds and gilts are still up but are off early morning highs as hawkish overnight comments from the European Central Bank's Klaus Liebscher prompt profit-taking. The March bund future is up 0.15 at 120.14, while the March gilt is up 0.10 at 113.57.

In the currency market, the dollar is mixed as the market waits for the results of the latest U.S. Treasury auction later in the day and the Bank of Japan policy meeting, which ends Thursday. The dollar is stronger against the yen, at Y118.33. The pound is stronger at $1.7440, while the euro is little changed at $1.1973.

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TOP STORIES:

PEUGEOT-CITROEN 2005 NET PFT DROPS 37%, MISSES VIEWS: PSA Peugeot-Citroen (12150.FR) reported a 37% drop in its net profit in 2005 as fierce price competition and weaker car sales in Europe, higher raw material prices and an unfavorable product mix ate into profitability. (News Snap by David Pearson)

GERMAN TRADE SURPLUS SLIDES IN DECEMBER:A sharp pickup in imports at the end of the year whittled Germany's trade surplus down to EUR9.2 billion in December, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed. (Data Snap by Emily Barrett)

SANTANDER 4Q NET PROFIT BOOSTED BY ASSET SALES: Santander Central Hispano SA (STD) said it swung to a net profit of EUR2.34 billion in the fourth quarter from a net loss, helped by gains from asset sales. (News Snap by Jonathan House)

UK MFG OUTPUT UP IN DEC, STILL A DRAG ON GROWTH: U.K. manufacturing output rose for the second month in a row in December, but the sector contracted during 2005 as a whole for the first time in three years. (Data Snap by Andrew Peaple)

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INSIGHT & ANALYSIS FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES:

=FOREX FOCUS: The yen's rally earlier this week may well have been fueled by some positive flows as speculators cashed in on their short positions. (By Nicholas Hastings)

=CHARTING EUROPE: European equity indexes are expected to have ended their last few days' correction lower and should bounce back from their Wednesday intraday lows and could even be forming the first leg-up in an advance to new '06 highs in February. (By Axel Rudolph)

=THE SKEPTIC: European car markets may be highly competitive but that's no excuse for Peugeot to turn in such a wretched set of 4Q results. (By Howard Wheeldon)

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STILL TO COME

ET/GMT COUNTRY/PERIOD

0700/1200 US Feb 3 MBA Refinancing Index
0700/1200 GER Lower house of parliament meets,
Berlin
0700/1200 UK GlaxoSmithKline earnings release
1030/1530 US Feb 3 US Energy Dept Gasoline Stocks
1030/1530 US Feb 3 US Energy Dept Crude Oil Stocks
1030/1530 US Feb 3 US Energy Dept Distillate Stocks
1850/2350 JPN Weekly Portfolio Flows
N/A JPN BOJ Policy Board meeting
N/A UK Jan Monthly Consumer Confidence Index

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OTHER NEWS:

The militant group Hamas has decided to name Jamal al-Khudairi, a Gaza businessman who ran for parliament as an independent with Hamas backing, as its candidate for Palestinian prime minister, a top Hamas official said. (AP)

Allianz AG Holding (AZ) reiterated it expects to book an operating profit of around EUR7.6 billion for 2005, up 12% from EUR6.8 billion in 2004. (By Ulrike Dauer)

U.K.-based BOC Group PLC (BOX) reported a 1.4% rise in first-quarter pretax profit, but said nothing about a recently rejected GBP7.6 billion takeover approach by German industrial gases peer Linde AG (LIN.XE). (News Snap By Louise Pitcher)

Reckitt Benckiser PLC (RB.LN) reported a 15% rise in fourth-quarter net profit and topped its own estimates for full-year net income and revenue on strong product performances. (News Snap By Henry Teitelbaum)

Stockholm-based Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (SEB-A.SK) reported a 2% decline in fourth-quarter net profit, hurt by an unexpected SEK890 million charge for integration costs. (News Snap By Louise Nordstrom)

Swedish-based engineering group Sandvik AB (SAND.SK) reported a 34% rise in fourth-quarter net profit citing strong orders, but said its Materials Technology unit just missed the 12% quarterly margin target. (News Snap By Malin Rising)

U.K. energy utility ScottishPower PLC (SPI) said the sale of its U.S. regulated business, PacifiCorp, will close ahead of schedule as it reported a 38% rise in profit before tax and pre-exceptionals during the third quarter. (News Snap By Alex MacDonald)

A World Trade Organization panel found the European Union had illegally banned some genetically modified crops, in a ruling that could open more of Europe to biotechnology products it has long resisted. (WSJ)

German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG (PSM.XE) said it expects 2005 net profit to rise 65%, driven by higher revenue in the second half of the year, particularly in the fourth quarter. (News Snap By Maeve Curtin)

Russian steelmaker OAO Severstal (CHMF.RS) said it is proposing a major capital increase to consolidate coal and mining operations currently owned by its controlling shareholders. (News Snap By Geoffrey T. Smith)