European stocks were little changed near a 23-month high as U.S. reports showed that durable-goods orders increased in the world’s largest economy while pending sales of houses declined.
SBM Offshore NV (SBMO) rose 3.4 percent after Morgan Stanley raised its recommendation for the stock. Debenhams Plc (DEB), the second-largest U.K. department-store chain, dropped 2.9 percent after Morgan Stanley cut its rating of the shares.
The Stoxx 600 slipped 0.1 percent to 289.36 at the close. The benchmark gauge rallied last week to the highest level since February 2011 and has jumped 3.5 percent this year after U.S. lawmakers agreed on a budget compromise.
“Markets have run quite well and are at the top end of their trading ranges,” said Andrea Williams, head of European equities at Royal London Asset Management in London, which oversees about $1.1 billion. “There’s some risk of a setback unless we get good corporate numbers and optimistic statements. It is important that data continues to show the U.S. economy is improving.”
Orders for durable goods in the U.S., the European Union’s largest trading partner, climbed 4.6 percent in December, a Commerce Department report in Washington showed. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast a gain of 2 percent.
A separate release from the National Association of Realtors showed its index of contracts for the purchase of previously owned homes fell 4.3 percent to 101.7 last month after a revised 1.6 percent increase in the prior month. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey projected no change in the gauge.
National benchmark indexes gained in 11 of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent, while France’s CAC 40 advanced less than 0.1 percent. Germany’s DAX retreated 0.3 percent.
SBM Offshore gained 3.4 percent to 12.01 euros, a four- month high. The largest maker of floating oil-and-gas platforms was raised to equal weight, a rating similar to neutral, from underweight at Morgan Stanley.
ASML Holding NV added 2.8 percent to 56.23 euros, the highest price since it sold shares to the public in March 1995. Europe’s largest semiconductor-equipment supplier was raised to buy from neutral at Citigroup Inc, citing limited risk associated with capital spending by ASML’s customers. Concern about the feasibility of the upcoming extreme ultraviolet technology is diminishing and the revenue contribution from services is increasing, the brokerage said.
TNT Express NV advanced 3.3 percent to 5.69 euros after UBS AG upgraded the shares to buy from neutral. The Dutch delivery company’s new management will swiftly act to fix or sell its Brazilian and Chinese operations, UBS said.
Debenhams dropped 2.9 percent to 102.2 pence as Morgan Stanley cut its recommendation on the shares to equal weight from overweight. The brokerage lowered its rating on the U.K. general retail industry to “cautious” and said analysts’ estimates for the industry’s profit growth in 2013 are too high.
Northland Resources SA slumped 45 percent to 0.63 kroner, the lowest since the company sold shares to the public in 2006. The iron-ore miner increased the cost estimates for the Kaunisvaara project in northern Sweden and said it needs to raise $375 million in bond and share sales.
The volume of shares trading on the Stoxx 600 (SXXP) was 7.9 percent higher than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
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