Around the World's Markets: PARIS

THE PROSPECT of a mega-merger between US energy giants Exxon and Mobil boosted blue chips to levels last seen in August as the CAC 40 index rose 1.71 per cent to end at 3,915.53.

Total rose 5.5 per cent and Elf Aquitaine gained 4.71 per cent, while Esso soared 20.96 per cent, after a brief suspension. Analysts said the speculation, coming on the heels of a planned BP takeover of Amoco, had focussed attention on European oil companies which are under pressure to cut costs amid falling oil prices.