European stocks were little changed, erasing their decline in the final 90 minutes of trading, as Tenaris SA (TEN) and Vallourec SA (VK) slid after the U.S. failed to impose anti-dumping duties on South Korea in a preliminary decision.
Tenaris and Vallourec, which make steel tubes, slid at least 4.5 percent. Wolters Kluwer NV slid 4.6 percent after saying restructuring costs will reduce its profit margin in 2014. Lafarge SA (LG) and Carlsberg A/S (CARLB) each rose more than 3 percent after posting fourth-quarter profits that beat estimates.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.1 percent to 334.94 at the close after earlier dropping as much as 0.6 percent. The benchmark has climbed 5.5 percent from its low on Feb. 4 as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said she would continue her predecessor’s approach toward the central bank’s bond-buying program. The gauge is 0.3 percent below the six-year high it reached on Jan. 22.
“We expect markets to be range-bound, rather than move upward,” said Stewart Richardson, who helps oversee about $100 million as chief investment officer at RMG Wealth Management LLP in London. “The growth in the European economy, and therefore corporate earnings, is not sufficient to get us excited after the rally we’ve seen.”
In the U.S., a Commerce Department report showed that housing starts fell to an annual pace of 880,000 in January from a revised rate of 1.05 million in December. That missed the median estimate of 950,000 in a Bloomberg survey.
The Fed releases the minutes of its Jan. 28-29 meeting after European markets close today. At the meeting -- the last under former chairman Ben S. Bernanke -- policy makers reduced the bank’s monthly asset purchases to $65 billion, citing the improved outlook for the labor market.
In the U.K., the minutes from the last meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee showed that the policy makers did not hold a vote on the new phase of forward guidance introduced by Governor Mark Carney. The central bank has changed its focus to the amount of spare capacity in the economy, rather than concentrating on the unemployment rate.
In Ukraine, lawmakers in the Lviv region declared independence from President Viktor Yanukovych’s central government after the appointed governor was evicted overnight. Clashes between the police and anti-government activists in the country have killed at least 25 people. The Ukrainian hryvnia weakened 1 percent to 8.95 a dollar. Thailand’s baht slid as five people died amid anti-government protests in Bangkok.
“The situation in Ukraine is affecting emerging-market currencies,” RMG’s Richardson said. “We could see a potential spillover from emerging markets into developed equities if things get worse in eastern Europe.”
Tenaris, which generated 49 percent of its 2012 revenue from North America, slid 6.9 percent to 15.96 euros. Vallourec, which got 29 percent of sales from the region, retreated 4.5 percent to 37.41 euros.
The U.S. Commerce Department refrained from imposing anti-dumping penalties on imports of steel tubing from South Korea in a decision late yesterday. It set tariffs on products from eight other countries. The exemption for South Korea will probably reduce Tenaris’s earnings by about 8 percent, or $200 million, and Vallourec’s profit by about 5 percent, or $75 million, according to Raphael Veverka, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.
Wolters Kluwer declined 4.6 percent to 20.66 euros after forecasting restructuring costs of 25 million euros to 30 million euros in 2014. The move may reduce the margin on earnings before interest, taxes and amortization to as little as 20.5 percent this year from 21.5 percent in 2013, the provider of tax and legal information said.
Lafarge gained 3.2 percent to 54.30 euros as the world’s second-biggest cement maker said fourth-quarter net income rose to 213 million euros from 83 million euros a year earlier. That exceeded the 198 million-euro average prediction of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Carlsberg jumped 7.1 percent to 585 kroner. The Danish brewer reported fourth-quarter earnings before interest and taxes of 2.32 billion kroner ($427 million), beating the 2.19 billion kroner estimated by analysts in a Bloomberg survey. The company also posted sales of 15.7 billion kroner for the period, beating the 15.5 billion-krone average forecast.
Meda AB surged 11 percent to 88.50 kronor after saying its margin on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will probably improve in 2014. The maker of Dymista allergy medicine also reported fourth-quarter Ebitda and revenue that beat projections.
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