European stocks climbed as a report showed that U.S. consumer confidence beat economists’ forecasts, even after durable-goods orders in the world’s largest economy unexpectedly slumped.
KBC Groep NV rallied 4.7 percent after Banco Santander SA agreed to buy the Belgian lender’s Polish unit, Kredyt Bank SA. National Bank of Greece SA dropped 6.7 percent as the shares of lenders retreated. TomTom NV plummeted 15 percent after forecasting lower revenue.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index increased 0.2 percent to 264.33 at the close, after earlier gaining as much as 0.4 percent and losing as much as 0.5 percent. The gauge has rallied 8.1 percent so far this year as the European Central Bank lent unlimited cash to the region’s banks.
“The worse-than-expected durables goods data remind us that even though the situation is the U.S. is better than in Europe, the recovery is still fragile,” said Stephane Ekolo, chief European strategist at Market Securities in London.
A report showed that confidence among U.S. consumers rose in February to the highest level in a year, showing households may sustain spending and drive the economy.
European stocks retreated earlier as a Commerce Department report showed that bookings for goods meant to last at least three years slumped 4 percent in January. Economists had predicted a 1 percent decline, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.
National Stock Markets
National benchmark indexes climbed in 12 of the 18 western-European markets. Germany’s DAX Index added 0.6 percent, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose 0.2 percent. France’s CAC 40 Index gained 0.4 percent. Greece’s ASE Index was the worst performing index, falling 3 percent.
The ECB will allocate cash from its long-term refinancing operation tomorrow. It will probably provide 470 billion euros ($632 billion) of three-year cash, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts.
Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, won a parliamentary vote on Greek aid after the close of European trading yesterday. She warned lawmakers that pushing Greece out of the euro risked “incalculable” damage.
In a vote that showed dissent in her coalition has grown, 496 members of the lower house, or Bundestag, voted in favor of the 130 billion-euro package. Ninety voted against and five abstained. Merkel’s government pushed through the measure to prevent Greece’s economy from collapsing.
Greece’s Selective Default
Greece’s credit ratings were cut to “selective default” by Standard & Poor’s after the Mediterranean nation negotiated the biggest sovereign-debt restructuring in history. S&P lowered Greece’s rating from CC, two levels above default, after the government added clauses to its debt designed to include investors unwilling to take part in the exchange, the New York-based company said in a statement yesterday.
National Bank of Greece, the country’s largest lender, dropped 6.7 percent to 2.24 euros. Commerzbank AG, Germany’s second-largest lender, fell 1.5 percent to 1.86 euros.
Ireland will hold a referendum to ratify the European fiscal compact, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said today. Kenny, speaking in the Dublin parliament, said that the government decided to hold a vote after receiving legal advice from the state’s attorney general. The government will finalize arrangements for the vote in coming weeks, he said.
“It will give the Irish people the opportunity to reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to membership of the euro,” Kenny said.
KBC, Cove Energy
KBC rallied 4.7 percent to 17.42 euros after Santander agreed to buy a unit of Belgium’s biggest bank and insurer by market value.
Cove Energy Plc advanced 2.5 percent to 240.5 pence after the Times of India reported that India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. and GAIL India Ltd. may offer $2 billion for the company, outbidding PTT Exploration & Production Pcl and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Three people familiar with the matter said that ONGC and GAIL were unlikely to offer more than PTT for Cove.
Persimmon Plc, the U.K.’s largest housebuilder by market value, surged 13 percent to 706.5 pence after saying it plans to return 1.9 billion pounds ($3 billion) to shareholders between 2013 and 2021. The rally was its biggest since October 2008.
Abengoa, Provident Financial
Abengoa SA jumped 7.3 percent to 15.96 euros. The Seville, Spain-based company, which develops solar thermal power plants, builds power-transmission lines and ethanol-refining facilities, posted profit of 257.4 million euros, beating the mean forecast of 210.3 million euros in a survey of 13 analysts. Profit rose 24 percent from a year earlier.
Provident Financial Plc, the U.K.’s biggest subprime lender, soared 6.2 percent to 1,140 pence. Full-year net income increased to 119.8 million pounds from 101.5 million pounds in the previous year. That beat the 118 million-pound median estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Belvedere SA, a French vodka maker, climbed 3.8 percent to 68.70 euros after Les Echos reported that the company plans to sell its Sobieski brand to cut debt.
Eiffage SA jumped 4.8 percent to 30.10 euros after the French builder’s rating was raised to “neutral” from “underperform” at Bank of America Corp.
TomTom plunged 15 percent to 3.75 euros after forecasting that revenue and earnings per share will fall this year. Europe’s biggest maker of portable navigation devices said sales will decline to 1.1 billion euros in 2012 from 1.27 billion euros in 2011 and adjusted earnings per share will decrease to about 35 cents per share from 55 cents.