Europe Stocks Drop for Fourth Day as Manufacturing Falls

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European stocks fell for a fourth day, the longest losing streak since November, as manufacturing contracted in China and the euro area.

Randgold Resources Ltd., which operates three mines in Mali, plunged the most since 2008 after a military coup in the West African nation. Baloise Holding AG, Switzerland’s third-largest insurer, and Meyer Burger Technology AG, a maker of solar-panel equipment, slid more than 4 percent in Zurich trading after profit declined.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index retreated 1.2 percent to 265.49 at the close of trading, the lowest since March 12. The gauge has still gained 8.6 percent this year as the European Central Bank disbursed 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) to the region’s lenders and U.S. economic data surpassed estimates.

“People have been too optimistic regarding global economic recovery,” said Stephane Ekolo, chief European strategist at Market Securities in London. “We will hear more and more people saying China is heading for a hard landing and that the euro zone isn’t finished with its problems.”

National benchmark indexes fell in all of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.8 percent, France’s CAC 40 retreated 1.6 percent and Germany’s DAX declined 1.3 percent.

A preliminary measure of Chinese manufacturing fell to 48.1 this month, according to HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics. That’s the lowest reading on the purchase managers’ index since November and compares with a final 49.6 in February. A result below 50 indicates a contraction.

European Economy

European services and manufacturing output contracted more than forecast in March. A euro-area composite index based on a survey of purchasing managers in both industries dropped to 48.7 from 49.3 in February, according to Markit.

In the U.S., initial jobless claims fell to 348,000 in the week ended March 17, the fewest since February 2008, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast a decline to 350,000.

The index of leading indicators in the world’s biggest economy rose 0.7 percent in February, following a revised 0.2 percent gain a month earlier, according to figures from the Conference Board. The gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months had been predicted to increased 0.6 percent, according to economists.

Mali Coup

Randgold plunged 13 percent to 5,765 pence, the largest decline since October 2008. A Malian army officer said the country’s constitution has been suspended and all state institutions dissolved because of the government’s “incompetence.” Randgold produced about 445,600 ounces of gold in Mali last year, about 64 percent of total output.

A gauge of basic-resources companies was the worst performer among 19 industries in the Stoxx 600. Glencore International Plc lost 3 percent to 403.5 pence, while ArcelorMittal dropped 4.3 percent to 14.78 euros.

Baloise slid 6.6 percent to 71.05 Swiss francs after saying profit dropped 86 percent last year on investment losses and a writedown on Greek sovereign debt.

Meyer Burger declined 4.7 percent to 14.25 francs after the company said full-year profit dropped to 35.8 million francs from 97.9 million francs a year earlier.

Amec Plc lost 3 percent to 1,109 pence after JPMorgan Chase & Co. reduced its recommendation on the oil and gas engineering company to neutral, the equivalent of hold, from overweight.

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland Plc slid 7.4 percent to 12.6 euro cents, the largest drop in three months, as Citigroup Inc. began coverage of the shares with a sell recommendation.

Ireland’s economy unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter, pushing the nation back into recession. Gross domestic product fell 0.2 percent from the third quarter, when it slipped 1.1 percent instead of a previously reported 1.9 percent, the Central Statistics Office said in Dublin today.

Hermes International SCA rose 2.3 percent to 249.80 euros after the French maker of Kelly bags and silk scarves posted earnings that exceeded analyst projections and offered a bonus dividend to shareholders.

Lanxess AG, the German chemical maker spun off from Bayer AG in 2005, jumped 8.5 percent to 61.05 euros, the largest gain since November 2009, after reporting fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates on higher demand from Brazil and China.

SGL Carbon SE climbed 7.8 percent to 36.25 euros after the German maker of carbon materials reported net income jumped 40 percent in 2011 and said it will resume dividend payments.

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