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The Independent Online

LEADING SHARES closed sharply higher, boosted by a strong rally in the US.

The FTSE 100 gained 113.5 to 6456.6 on the back of a solid opening in the Dow, after a set of positive economic data eased fears of a rate hike next week. A positive bond market in the UK and US also helped to underpin sentiment. The smaller indices underperformed the blue-chips with the midcap closing just 8.3 ahead at 5815.2 and the Small Cap nudging 6.2 higher at 2588.

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BOTH the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P500 hit record levels after April prices data calmed fears over inflation. The Dow added 110 at 11,111, and the S&P was up 9 on the previous day's closing record at 1373. IBM climbed $16 at $241 after on the back of optimism about its internet strategy. Takeover speculation drove shares in JP Morgan up $6 at $145. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 17.25 at 2,62.19 and the Nasdaq 100 added 10.74 at 2,228.42. Matrix Pharmaceuticals was up $3 at $6.


THE NIKKEI 225 closed down 0.57 per cent at 16,851.25 following cautious trading ahead of the settlement of May share options today, and anxiety over forthcoming earnings announcements for the Japanese corporate year. Some analysts were expecting a 30 per cent decline in profits. Nintendo closed up 7 per cent at 14,900 on the back of plans to develop a games console in partnership with Matsushita. Nomura Securities shares added 3 per cent at 1,320 after it said a research unit might list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.


THE HANG SENG index closed moderately firmer up 0.31 per cent at 13,053.67.

Stocks benefited from a rebound in Hong Kong Telecommunications Ltd shares which gained 5.1 per cent but brokers said buying interest was very selective. Hong Kong Telecom shares got a boost from reports that Microsoft Corp was in talks to buy 30 per cent of Cable & Wireless Communications, a unit of Hong Kong Telecom parent Cable & Wireless.


THE CAC 40 blue chip index followed US stocks higher to close up 1.4 per cent at 4,415.88 after touching an intra-day high of 4,420.46. An analyst said: "All the bad news - the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, the dismissal of Primakov, the resignation of Rubin, etc - all have been absorbed." The biggest gainer in a market where cyclicals were back in vogue on hopes of European economic growth was Franco-Italian semi-conductor maker STMicroelectronics, which jumped 10.13 per cent.