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U.K. Stocks Decline as Greek Talks Continue; BHP Billiton Falls

U.K. stocks fell for a third day, the longest losing streak in three weeks, amid concern Greece’s political leaders might fail to reach a consensus on terms for a second bailout.

BHP Billiton Ltd. lost 2.3 percent after reporting its first drop in first-half profit since 2009. International Power slid 2.8 percent as it forecast weaker growth in 2012. Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc advanced 2.9 percent after saying sales growth in 2012 will outpace the industry.

The FTSE 100 Index fell 14.33, or 0.2 percent, to 5,875.93 at the close in London. The benchmark measure has still rallied 19 percent from last year’s lowest level as economic data suggested the recovery in the U.S. economy is on track. The FTSE All-Share Index also slipped 0.2 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index lost 0.6 percent.

“The range on the FTSE 100 is less than 40 points today, as indecision seems the most liquid commodity of the day,” said Will Hedden, a sales trader at IG Index in London. “Risk-averse traders will still highlight the event risk from a Greek default, but in reality I think the worry is how this would affect the rest of the peripheries and the game plan from a German perspective.”

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos began negotiations on spending cuts with political leaders today after delaying the meeting twice in as many days. Papademos held an unscheduled meeting last night with the so-called troika --comprising the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- to discuss the final terms of the bailout.

BHP Drops

BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, lost 2.3 percent to 2,130 pence after the company said first-half net income fell to $9.9 billion from $10.5 billion a year earlier.

International Power slid 2.8 percent to 333 pence after the electricity-plant operator said 2012 sales growth will be affected by “contracts rolling off” in North America and fewer expected liquid natural gas diversions.

Centrica Plc, the U.K.’s biggest supplier of gas and electricity, fell 2.7 percent to 294.5 pence as Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. started selling its entire stake of 199.4 million shares.

SuperGroup Plc tumbled 17 percent to 579.5 pence, the biggest drop since October. The owner of the Superdry clothing chain forecast that annual pretax profit will be at the “lower end” of analyst estimates because of a tough start to 2012.

HomeServe Plc, a provider of emergency-repair services, plunged 13 percent to 240.1 pence, the largest decline in three months. The company forecast that U.K. customer numbers will fall about 8 percent in fiscal 2012.

Reckitt Benckiser climbed 2.9 percent to 3,479 pence. The maker of Dettol handwash said sales in 2012 will grow at a faster pace than the industry and reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates.

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