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london LONDON: Europe's main stock markets mostly rose on Friday after the German parliament approved the latest instalment of aid for Greece, helping to offset persistent concerns over the US "fiscal cliff."


In midday deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index added 0.20 percent to 5,882.19 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 won 0.45 percent to 7,434.23 points and the Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.33 percent to 3,580.79.


On the downside, Madrid's Ibex 35 index fell 0.29 percent to 7,950.30 points amid news that Spanish savings bank Ibercaja had agreed to merge with another, Cajatres, in the latest twist for Spain's ruined finance sector.


The European single currency rallied to a one-week high at $1.3028, boosted by the German approval, before pulling back to $1.3002, up from $1.2978 late in New York on Thursday.


Gold prices firmed to $1,728.25 per ounce on the London Bullion Market, compared with $1,725 on Thursday.


"Germany's Bundestag approved Greece's latest rescue deal with a majority, bolstering the tone somewhat by mid-day trade in Europe," said Ishaq Siddiqi, analyst at ETX Capital trading group.


"That said, persisting worries about the fiscal cliff in the US pressures a sensitive market. Progress or the lack of, over US lawmakers reaching a deal dominate headlines and keeps the bulls and the bears fighting for control over direction."


Germany's parliament on Friday overwhelmingly approved billions of euros in international aid for Greece, handing a much-needed financial boost to Athens as it battles against bankruptcy.


Deputies voted by 473 to 100 to give the green light to the release of 43.7 billion euros ($56.9 billion) in aid to debt-wracked Greece agreed after torturous talks between eurozone finance ministers. There were 11 abstentions.


In company news, shares in Metro rallied 1.04 percent to 21.82 euros after the German retailer agreed to sell the eastern European operations of its Real supermarket unit to French rival Auchan for 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion).


Metro said in a statement it had signed an agreement with the French retailer to "take over the operational activities and real estate assets of Real in Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine."


The deal covers 91 hypermarkets in the four countries, where Real generated sales of 2.6 billion euros in 2011 and employs a workforce of 20,000.


In London, Royal Bank of Scotland shares slid 1.10 percent to 295.60 pence after the state-rescued lender announced that the sale of its Indian retail and commercial activities to HSBC had lapsed.


RBS, which is 81 percent owned by the taxpayer after a vast bailout, added that it would seek to wind down the Indian operations.


In the United States, investors were increasingly nervous about the approaching fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax rises, which will be triggered on January 1 unless a cross-party deal is brokered.


"With a month to go before the United States is due to topple over the fiscal cliff -- $650 billion of spending cuts and tax hikes promising a return to recession -- the onus is on the politicians to move the debate on and come up with a deal," said ING bank economist James Knightley.


"We continue to hear warm words, but there is still a sense that both sides are refusing to budge on several issues. Consequently, we expect this to go to the wire."


Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

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