Europe stocks wait for a Greek deal

Europe’s main stock markets finished mostly higher yesterday as eurozone ministers pressed on with “very difficult” talks to reach agreement on renegotiating Greece’s bailout terms.
Frankfurt’s DAX 30 index closed up 0.38% to 11,050.64 points, and the CAC 40 in Paris remained stable down just 0.05% to 4,830.90.
In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 rose 0.38% to 6,915.20 points as investors reacted to mixed economic data in non-eurozone member Britain.
The euro stabilised at $1.1366 from $1.1365 late in New York late Thursday.
“I do not have to tell you it’s quite complicated … there is still reason for some optimism but it is very difficult,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Eurogroup head and Dutch finance minister, said of a Greece-Germany stand-off before the official start of talks later Friday.
US stocks were mixed as investors in New York similarly eyed the talks between Greece and its eurozone partners.
In mid-day trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average was essentially flat, rising 0.05% to 17,994.02 points.
The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.14% to 2,094.58, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.95% to 4,925.65.
Finance ministers from the eurozone’s 19 member countries were to meet in Brussels later yesterday to consider a proposal by Athens to extend its European loan programme, which expires at the end of the month.
A key survey published yesterday ahead of the talks showed that eurozone business activity hit a seven-month high in February, extending gains despite concerns over the Greek debt crisis as the eurozone economy recovers from a soft patch.
Markit Economics said its Composite Purchasing Managers Output Index (PMI) for the 19-nation single currency bloc jumped to 53.5 points from 52.6 in January, putting it well above the 50-points boom or bust line.
Europe’s main stock markets had mainly risen on Thursday with Frankfurt hitting a new record close amid hopes of a resolution to the Greek debt row, while London’s exchange, featuring heavyweight energy companies, was dragged down by concerns over falling oil prices.
Frankfurt’s benchmark DAX 30 index of leading companies closed at a record 11,001.94, while the CAC 40 reached its highest level since June 2008. The FTSE also reached 15-year peaks this week.
“Ending the current impasse (over Greece) is essential if the FTSE 100 is to make new highs,” said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at stockbroker Interactive Investor.
“Either way, we are reaching an inflection point where the leading index could break above long-term resistance and rally sharply, or fall like a stone if the market prices in Greece’s exit from the eurozone, however improbable.”