Local equities jumped yesterday after investors increased their bids for most of the listed companies, thereby pushing the MSE index to a fresh record high of 6,453 points.

Global Financial Services Group was the day's top gainer, as the equity rallied seven per cent to close at the Lm1.81,9 level, on turnover of almost 12,000 shares.

HSBC Bank Malta was, once again, the most actively traded equity with 19,143 shares being exchanged across a grand total of 75 deals. The equity rose steadily throughout the session to register a new record closing high of Lm11.30.

Activity in Bank of Valletta was mainly dominated by buyers who progressively purchased the equity all the way up to the Lm5 level. At this stage a few sellers appeared and trimmed down the day's gains to 8c1 or 1.7 per cent, to end the session at Lm4.93.

Lombard Bank dropped a penny as 247 shares were exchanged across five transactions at Lm11.75.

Activity in FIMBank amounted to 218,600 shares which were exchanged across seven deals, bringing the price down again to the $2 level.

Buying activity in Maltacom saw 25,320 shares being struck across 19 deals with the price closing minimally higher at Lm2.18,9.

International Hotel Investments gained 0.6 per cent at €0.855 on a substantial amount of shares, while two investors swapped 1,000 shares of Simonds Farsons Cisk at the Lm0.84 level.

European bourses extend 56-month highs

European equities extended last week's 56-month highs as takeover speculation continued to dominate, with bids and mergers tabled from the likes of Aviva, Ferrovial and Schering.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 0.4 per cent to 1,375.11, and Frankfurt's Xetra Dax gained 0.4 per cent to 5,905.44. The CAC 40 in Paris climbed 0.2 per cent to 5,152.787, and London's FTSE 100 gained 0.4 per cent to 6,020.4.

Shares on Wall Street were expected to continue their recent strong run amid hopes over the US interest rate outlook and further merger and acquisition activity. Investors were looking to a speech by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke at the Economic Club of New York - due at midnight - for clues on future US interest policy.

While most observers were expecting a further interest-rate hike at the Central Bank's next policy setting meeting on March 27-28, benign inflation news last week sparked speculation that the interest rate hiking cycle might be close to ending and sent shares to near five-year highs.

The Japanese stock market rose sharply yesterday, boosted by increases in both domestic and export shares and particularly strong gains among securities companies. The Nikkei closed 1.7 per cent higher at 16,624.80. The Topix rose 1.5 per cent to 1,688.22.

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