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PUBLIC TRADING Pharmaceuticals gain in world markets

Published: Tue, February 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.

U.S. financial markets were closed Monday.
LONDON (AP) -- European and Asian shares started the week mixed but largely flat, with pharmaceutical stocks the only gainers of note, as the U.S. markets remained closed for a public holiday Monday.
Pharmaceutical stocks gained after Switzerland's Novartis AG agreed to buy generic drug-makers Hexal AG and Eon Labs Inc. and following a decision by U.S. regulators Friday that allows Merck & amp; Co. to reintroduce its Vioxx painkiller. The sector's rise was countered by falling utility stocks as markets factored in a rise in bond yields.
Otherwise, traders said that many markets were taking advantage of the U.S. long weekend to take a breather ahead of economic data due for release in America and Germany later in the week. Wall Street and other U.S. financial markets were closed Monday for Presidents Day.
Analysts said the pharmaceuticals sector was cheered by the recommendation Friday by a U.S. government advisory panel that Merck's Vioxx should be sold again in the U.S. with the strictest safety warning on its label. That news was bolstered Monday by Novartis' purchase of generic drugmakers Eon Labs of the United States and Hexal AG of Germany for $8.3 billion, creating the world's largest generic drug company.

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