European stocks mixed before Fed chief debut

London (AFP) –


Europe's major stock markets diverged Tuesday as investor focus turned to Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell's congressional debut.

London won a boost after US cable giant Comcast launched a surprise rival takeover bid for Sky, sending shares in the British satellite TV giant surging by more than a fifth in value.

Paris also held in positive territory, but Frankfurt flatlined on jitters before Powell's eagerly awaited remarks.

In Asia on Tuesday, Tokyo stocks enjoyed fresh gains after another strong Wall Street performance but most other regional markets struggled to maintain momentum.

"Equity markets in Europe are a mixed bag," noted analyst David Madden at trading firm CMC Markets UK.

"Volatility is likely to be low as traders are waiting to hear from Jerome Powell of the Federal Reserve at lunchtime. European stocks has been broadly pushing higher over the past two weeks and it seems they are taking a breather now.

"Investors will be listening closely to what he says... as it could provide clues as whether we are going to see a more hawkish or more dovish Fed," Madden added.

Equities have been pushing higher since the first week of February saw a plunge that wiped trillions off valuations worldwide, though analysts warn that with prices still high volatility could return.

- Sky bidding war? -

In London, star performer Sky rocketed 20.4 percent to £13.30 on the prospect of a bidding war between Comcast and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox.

Comcast has outgunned Murdoch's entertainment giant with an all-cash offer of £12.50 per share for Sky, or more than £22 billion ($31 billion, 25 billion euros) overall.

That is substantially more than the £10.75 per share or £11.4 billion that Fox has offered for the 61 percent of Sky it does not already own.

"Comcast has gazumped 21st Century Fox with a better takeover offer for Sky shareholders," noted Laith Khalaf, analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.

"This is not a done deal yet though. Sky shares are now trading above the Comcast offer price, so the market clearly smells the scent of some more action before this saga draws to a close."

This week will meanwhile see a number of key events for investors, including the release of US economic growth and inflation data.

But firstly new Fed chief Powell will speak before top congressional committees on Tuesday and also on Thursday.

- Key figures around 1030 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,297.97 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: FLAT at 12,529.09

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 5,351.01

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,458.98

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 22,389.86 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.7 percent at 31,268.66 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.1 percent at 3,292.07 (close)

New York - DOW: UP 1.6 percent at 25,709.27

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2333 from $1.2317 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3956 from $1.3968

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.04 yen from 106.93 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN nine cents at $67.41 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 16 cents at $63.75