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RAJ HALLEN Investment director,Premier Fund Managers

Following a volatile week, there was some calm, consolidation and then a pick-up in most markets last week after strong earnings data, some good macro news and a fall in crude oil prices.

In the US, Wall Street rallied strongly on Thursday, with investors cheering the news that crude oil prices had dipped below $40 a barrel amid indications that Opec was considering a substantial rise in output.

Macro news was generally supportive, with investors encouraged by the state of the jobs market after the Labour department reported initial jobless claims had fallen by 3,000, the first fall in three weeks.

However, first-quarter GDP growth figures were revised up from 4.2 per cent to 4.4 per cent, less than expected. Corporate news was also good, with Costco Wholesale giving retailers a boost by posting higher than expected earnings.

In Europe, markets were encouraged by a batch of mostly bullish company news, led by the IT sector and in particular Ericcsson which was upgraded by Credit Suisse First Boston.

Other strong performers included Dutch group ASML, France&#39s Infineon and Finland&#39s Nokia.

In the UK, shares in Marks & Spencer leapt by almost 20 per cent on Thursday after BHS&#39s Phillip Green announced a cash and shares bid for the struggling retailer. The market was also boosted on the same day by news of a share buyback proposal from Boots, which saw its share price climb by nearly 7 per cent on the day. However, that said, the UK market remained pretty flat over the week.

Japan&#39s markets enjoyed another good week, with the Nikkei 225 advancing on Friday for the third consecutive day to end the week at 11,309.59, nearly 2.2 per cecnt higher. Ito-Yokado, Japan&#39s second-biggest retailer, performed strongly on news that the average spending had risen by 7.2 per cent year on year in April.

Elsewhere in the Far East, markets continued to recover some of their recent losses. Boosted by weaker crude prices, the airlines performed strongly to help Hong Kong&#39s Hang Seng index gain a further 5.1 per cent while Korea&#39s Kopsi index and Thai&#39s SET ended the week 3.8 and 4.2 per cent higher.


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