European Stocks Decline on Greek Impasse; Saab, Commerzbank Fall

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European stocks fell for the fourth time in five days as a leader in Greece’s coalition government said he won’t support more spending cuts demanded by the region’s finance ministers.

National Bank of Greece SA tumbled 9.5 percent. Saab AB plunged 8.6 percent after fourth-quarter earnings and sales missed analysts’ estimates. Alcatel-Lucent jumped 12 percent after saying adjusted operating margins will increase in 2012.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 0.9 percent to 261.24 at the close in London, wrapping up a weekly loss to 1.3 percent. The gauge has still advanced 6.8 percent this year amid optimism that the euro area will contain its debt crisis and that the U.S. economic recovery remains intact.

“It’s still Greece that’s dominating” the sentiment, said Will Hedden, a sales trader at IG Markets Ltd. in London. There are “people ready to get in and get some risk on and move this market forward, but it is this little annoying Greece issue, I think, that is still stopping people from jumping in.”

George Karatzaferis, the leader of the Laos party, today said he couldn’t support the accord worked out for a new financing agreement in its present form.

Euro-area finance ministers yesterday refused to approve a second aid package because of a lack of assurances by Greek party leaders that they will stick to their commitments after elections due as soon as April. The ministers asked Greece to turn its budget cuts into law and identify 325 million euros ($429 million) in spending reductions.

Future of Greece

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said after the Brussels meeting that the parliamentary vote set to begin this weekend amounted to a ballot on euro membership.

“If we see the salvation and future of the country in the euro area, in Europe, we have to do whatever we have to do to get the program approved,” Venizelos said.

China’s exports fell and imports slid more than forecast in January, the first declines in two years, as a week-long holiday disrupted trade and commodity prices dropped.

In the U.S., a gauge of consumer confidence declined more than forecast in February from the highest level in almost a year. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment fell to 72.5 from 75 at the end of last month. Economists projected a reading of 74.8, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.

National benchmark indexes declined in 16 of the 18 western-European markets today. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slipped 0.7 percent. France’s CAC 40 Index dropped 1.5 percent, while Germany’s DAX Index lost 1.4 percent.

Bank Shares

National Bank of Greece, the country’s largest lender, fell

9.5 percent to 2.68 euros. Alpha Bank SA, the second-biggest, plummeted 9.4 percent to 1.45 euros. EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA dropped 9.3 percent to 88 euro cents.

Saab declined 8.6 percent to 136.40 kronor, its biggest drop since August. The Swedish company reported a fourth-quarter net income of 413 million kronor ($62 million) against analysts’ projection for 474 million kronor.

Commerzbank AG, Germany’s second-biggest lender, lost 5.2 percent to 2.06 euros.

Alcatel-Lucent, France’s largest telecommunications-gear supplier, jumped 12 percent to 1.68 euros after it said it expects to increase adjusted operating margins in 2012.

National Grid Plc slid 1.2 percent to 632.5 pence after its stock was cut to “neutral” from “overweight” at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Total SA dropped 1.4 percent to 40.58 euros. The company plans to cut net investments to $20 billion in 2012, compared with $22 billion last year. Adjusted net income in the fourth quarter was 2.73 billion euros, in line with the average analyst estimate of 2.72 billion euros.

Cable & Wireless Communications Plc plunged 17 percent to

36.3 pence, its biggest decline since 2005, after saying that full-year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization at its Panama unit will be less than its own projection. The business has been affected by the high level of competition in mobile-phone services, the company said.

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