Pick of the early market news


Will the market optimism continue? While Europe slept, Asian markets climbed on the news of a Europe deal (thanks Germany) - the eurozone's bailout fund rises to €1 trillion married to a 50% 'haircut' for private investors. Japan's Nikkei 225 climbed 0.5% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose almost 1.3%. Yesterday, the FTSE 100 finished 28 points up at 5,553. So, expect more optimism today.

There's a bunch of heavyweight players line up on the pitch this morning. First in line is Shell. Quarterly earnings have doubled compared to last year thanks to a rise in oil prices and strong performance across the company generally. Current cost of supplies earnings soared to $7.2bn compared to $3.5bn a year ago - a result that, like BP earlier in the week, beat most analyst estimates.

Disposal of non-core assets is an important part of the company's strategy. "We completed $6.2bn of asset sales this year, with $1.8bn in the third quarter 2011, including a refinery in the United Kingdom," says boss Peter Voser.

"We continue to make good progress with our strategy; improving our competitive performance, delivering a new wave of production growth, and maturing the next generation of growth options for shareholders."

AstraZeneca is next. Third quarter revenues have dipped 2% - its revenue performance reflects the loss, says the company, of more than $350 million of revenue from generic competition, as well as the impact of government price interventions. Core operation profit for the third quarter also sank 2%.

"We have delivered a third quarter revenue and core earnings performance in line with our expectations, against the backdrop of anticipated generic competition," said David Brennan, AstraZeneca boss.

Western Europe revenues were sharply down - by 15% - resulting from volume declines combined with a mid-single digit decline in realised prices, said the company. Overall core operating profit for the nine months was down 6% to $10,177 million, partly due to increased R&D costs.

Lastly, William Hill, and the action is online: online net revenues have climbed 28%, or year-to-date, 25%. However group operating profits have taken a hit. They're 22% lower in the last quarter, though group revenues expanded 2%. The Q3 margin is broadly in line with the company's long-term average for this quarter - but below the unusually high margin seen in Q3 2010, driven up by football results.

"Online net revenue growth accelerated in the quarter, as did underlying amounts staked over-the-counter in retail, and our long-term track record of growth in machines continued in Q3," says company boss Ralph Topping.

"Internationally, the initial performance of William Hill Online's new Italian casino website is beating expectations having taken around 8-9% market share and we are the most successful of the non-domestic new entrants."

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