In a last hurrah before the Christmas shut-down, the London and Paris stock markets rose to record closes today, but in thin trading after a spending spree in Hong Kong and New York pushed shares there to new highs.
The Paris Bourse reached its 37th closing high of the year, rising more than 2 percent amid euphoria in the high-tech, media and telecom sectors. The London market also ended at a record high, up 0.44 percent.
The dollar rose. Japanese authorities bought dollars to show resolve in keeping the yen from rising to levels that could threaten Japan's fragile economic recovery.
The stage was set for a surge in European stocks by Thursday's trading in New York, where the three major stock indexes ended at all-time highs. The London and Paris markets hit records within minutes of opening today.
In Paris, the benchmark CAC 40 index rose 2.11 percent, to 5852.50, though trading was slow. "The market has topped the 5,800 level pulled up by the Nasdaq and Dow Jones performances overnight," a trader said.
An exception to the French market's obsession with technology stocks was Credit Lyonnais, which ended with a gain of about 8 percent. Its stock had earlier reached a record of 52.90 euros, and trading in the bank's shares was suspended twice because of price surges. The bank's stock had climbed more than 14 percent on Thursday on speculation that rival bank BNP was buying its shares.
The stock of Bouygues was up 3 percent on speculation that Deutsche Telekom may make a bid for its mobile phone unit.
Across the English Channel, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100-stock index rose 29.7, to 6806.5, its highest close to date, with pharmaceutical stocks accounting for nearly 13 points of the gain. The surge left the FT-SE about 15.9 percent higher than it was this time last year.
Hong Kong stocks also vaulted to record levels. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed at an all-time high of 16,833.28, propelled by galloping local technology shares.
Currency markets saw some excitement, too, when the Bank of Japan intervened to stem the yen's rise. By the close of trading in Tokyo, the dollar was at 102.60 yen, up 0.52 yen from Wednesday.
"The yen has been drifting strongly up all week," said Joanne Collins, senior economist at Daiwa Europe in London. "I suppose the BOJ's immediate objective is to send a signal that they are not going to let it break 100 just because it's Christmas."