German shares up midday ahead of expected ECB rate cut

Share prices pushed higher midday as market participants jostled for position ahead of an expected ECB rate cut this afternoon.

Share prices pushed higher midday as market participants jostled for position ahead of an expected ECB rate cut this afternoon - with talk in the market pivoting around whether the bank will ease rates by 25 or 50 basis points - while Deutsche Telekom surged as it went ahead with plans to slash its net debt, dealers said.

At 11.49 pm the DAX was at 3,372.24, up 51.49 points or 1.55%, having traded in a range of 3,310.74-3,381.21 so far today.

The MDAX was at 3,170.99, up 11.87 points or 0.38%.

The NEMAX50 was at 443.65, up 0.72 points or 0.16%, while the Neuer Markt Performance Index was at 484.22, up 0.35 points or 0.06%.

The DAX future was at 3,380.5, up 49.0 points or 1.47%. The Bund future was at 111.64, up 0.06.

The euro last traded at $0.9995, compared with $1.0002 in early London trade.

The ECB rates decision this afternoon will be key to near-term sentiment, dealers said, with most analysts now pegging a 50 basis point cut.

"Everyone is expecting the ECB to act today. It will come as a major shock if it doesn't cut by at least 25 basis points," said one dealer.

Large-cap groups high debt levels were among the top performing, with Deutsche Telekom leading the pack, up 0.68 euro or 5.53% at 12.99, buttressed by reported comments that the group is planning to sell a minority stake in ITS, the IT business of its T-Systems division, which would help fund expansion of the business abroad and, indeed, go some way to cutting Telekom's net debt level.

Deutsche Telekom aims to slash its debt mountain to 49.5-52.3 billion euro by the end of 2003 from a level of 64 billion as it stood at the end of September of this year.

Strong gains by France Telecom this morning were also helping.

The market focus on debt was also central to sentiment towards ThyssenKrupp today. The steelmaker's stock managed to turned higher midmorning as investors honed in on the group's significantly lowered debt level evident on its year-end balance sheet, casting aside earlier caution on the group's dividend cut, which was larger than many had expected, and the company's reluctance to give guidance on the current fiscal year weighing on sentiment in the stock.

ThyssenKrupp last traded up 0.46 at 12.66.

Meanwhile, car-makers were in demand, still gleaning support from a positive note circulated by JP Morgan on the global sector yesterday, with DaimlerChrysler up 0.81 at 35.30, while VW added 0.74 to 41.74.

Infineon, up 0.18 at 9.72, and fellow techs inched ahead to shrug off cautious noises from Gateway overnight, as investors eyed what is expected to be an upbeat mid-quarter update from Intel this evening.

SAP added 1.84 to 87.64.

However, Siemens was under-performing, up 0.38 at 49.58, after Moody's yesterday evening lowered its ratings outlook for the group's debt to 'negative' from 'stable'.

Bucking the trend, Lufthansa lost 0.21 to 11.15, while Deutsche Post traded off 0.18 at 10.56.

Fresenius Medical Care succumbed to profit-taking from yesterday's strong advance.

TUI was also out of sorts, down 0.10 at 20.11, as followers mulled sector peer Six Continent's woes. The UK group this morning posted a 24% fall in full year underlying pretax profit and gave a gloomy assessment of its prospects.

Over on the NEMAX50 index, Teleplan pushed 0.55 ahead to 7.75 after the group said it expects that 2003 revenue will rise by 20-25%.

Gericom added 0.57 to 11.34.

However, Thiel Logistik lost 0.11 to 4.40, while Viva Media lost 0.14 to 5.81.

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