US stocks fell 1.4 per cent to 7,688.17 after a roller-coaster ride every day. Analysts attributed the volatility to indecision about the outlook for profits and interest rates ahead of the FOMC meeting next week. The market is completing its best quarter in a decade and investors are nervous whether stocks have risen past the levels justified by the outlook for company profits. Phillip Morris was the biggest decliner, falling 6.3 per cent as investors assessed the cost of the tobacco settlement.

UK stocks rose 1 per cent to 4,640.3. Gains were limited by concern that the Budget may contain tax changes that will make equities less attractive to fund managers if a 20 per cent tax rebate on dividends enjoyed by pension funds is abolished.

In France, the CAC Index rose 4.9 per cent, setting two new highs to close at 2891.04. On Wednesday the index saw its biggest gain in two years. Rhone-Poulenc said it may make a $4.3bn (pounds 2.58bn) offer for the shares it doesn't own in its US subsidiary Rhone-Poulenc Rorer.

In Germany, the DAX Index rose 0.19 per cent to 3795.41. Volkswagen was the biggest gainer with a rise of 3.7 per cent. Analysts believe the market is being driven by funds boosting equities but the index fell on concern about US rates ahead of the Federal Reserve policy meeting. Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg