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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March 2005, 14:25 GMT
Oil helps buoy BBC Global 30

By Jamie Robertson
BBC World business presenter

The Global 30 has been edging its way southwards over the last two weeks.

Only in the last 24 hours has it managed to surge back into positive territory.

This is largely because of the fortunes of Exxon, which was the index's best performer, up 7.5%.

Its huge market capitalisation - it has now officially overtaken General Electric as the largest company in the world and on the Global 30 - contributed 41 positive points to the index.

Oil boost

The reason isn't hard to find: oil broke back through $53 a barrel following comments from Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi that the price could stay in the $40-$50 range all year.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi
The Saudi oil minister buoyed oil prices with his comments

Cold weather and lower inventories at refineries increased the upward pressure.

Surprisingly, the pharmaceutical sector is well represented among the gainers on the Global 30.

This follows a poor performance in recent months after regulators drew attention to possible risks among some products.

Pfizer was the second-best performer on the index over the last fortnight, up 5.1% after the US Food and Drug Administration recommended its Celebrex arthritis treatment carry stiff warnings.

However, it would not be taken off the shelves.

Meanwhile, Takeda rose 2.3% in Japan on speculation that it too might be looking for a partner following the Sanyo-Daiichi merger.

In Switzerland, Novartis rose 2.2% after it bought Hexel of Germany, instantly becoming the world's biggest maker of low-price generic medicines.

Commodity boom

Still at the positive end of the index, the third-best performer was the world's biggest mining group BHP Billiton.

The commodity boom, stoked by Chinese demand, shows no sign of ending.

In the last week, copper prices climbed to within $10 of their all-time highs set back in 1989.

Approval for Celebrex gave Pfizer reason to celebrate

However, even if the index showed a net gain over the last ten days, the index - calculated in sterling - has been hit by the weakness of the dollar.

Even the gains from Exxon and Pfizer were reduced by the 1% fall in the greenback against the pound.

The fall in the dollar also accentuates falls in US stocks on the index but surprisingly the big losers have been in Europe and Asia.

Most notable has been ENEL, the Italian power company, which has been marked down on anticipation that the government is determined to sell off another 19% of the company.

This would help the government raise the $33bn (17.1bn) it says it needs to make serious inroads into its debt.

ENEL shares are down 7.1% over the last 10 trading days.

Mixed banking fortunes

Close on its heels (down 4.6%) is HSBC, smarting from the poor reception to its latest set of results which showed a growing number of bad loans at its Household Finance subsidiary in the US.

Bumper profits but traders focused on the rise in bad debts

Another banking stock being marked down is Tokyo Mitsubishi Financial (down 3.3%), where investors are coming to terms with the fact that it is now certain to merge with UFJ.

Sumitomo Mitsui has finally conceded that it will not make any rival offer, but Mitsubishi Tokyo is faced with an awesome task.

It has already given UFJ some $6bn to help it cope with its $27bn of bad debt, and plans cost savings of some $22bn, 6,000 job cuts and the closing or merging of 300 branches.

In percentage terms, the big American fallers - Citigroup (down 2.6%), Microsoft (down 2.8%) and GE (down 2.3%) did not do as badly.

But because of their sheer size and market capitalisation, the three of them together pulled the index down 33 points.

BBC Global 30 intraday chart


FTSE 100
23.70 0.44%
19.54 0.34%
Cac 40
14.48 0.38%
Dow Jones
78.53 0.76%
35.31 1.58%
S&P 500
11.22 1.02%
BBC Global 30
20.65 0.36%
Data delayed by at least 15 minutes

Introducing the BBC Global 30
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