European Stocks Fall for Second Day; Banca Popolare Drops

European stocks declined for a second day as European Central Bank Governing Council member Jens Weidmann said boosting the euro area’s rescue funds will not solve its debt crisis.

Banca Popolare di Milano Scarl lost 5.4 percent as the lender said it swung to a loss in 2011. JKX Oil & Gas Plc plunged 14 percent after saying it will not pay an interim dividend this year.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 1.1 percent to 264.10 at the close. The gauge has still climbed 8 percent this quarter. The number of shares changing hands on the Euro Stoxx 50 Index was 9.1 percent less than the average over 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“Just like the ‘Tower of Babel,’ the ‘Wall of Money’ will never reach heaven,” Weidmann said in a speech at Chatham House in London today. “If we continue to make it higher and higher, we will, in fact, run into more worldly constraints,” which might include setting “incentives that lead to new problems in the future.”

Euro-area finance ministers are likely to bolster Europe’s crisis funds to between 700 billion euros ($934 billion) and 9 billion euros at a meeting in Copenhagen on March 30. German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week gave her first indication that she is prepared to allow an increase in the firewall as Portugal and Spain show “fragility.”

Merkel said yesterday that the crisis is ebbing and her country’s borrowing costs will probably rise as its status as a haven wanes.

Italy’s Prime Minister, Mario Monti, said in Tokyo today the euro area’s woes are “almost over” after a slow initial response by policy makers. The risk of debt contagion from Spain has decreased after measures taken to boost a firewall, he said.

French Economy

France’s economy expanded less than expected in the fourth quarter. Gross domestic product grew 1.3 percent in the three months from a year earlier, instead of the 1.4 percent previously estimated, the national statistics office Insee said today.

The U.K.’s economy shrank more than previously forecast in the fourth quarter as output at services companies declined. GDP fell 0.3 percent from the third quarter, compared with a previous estimate of 0.2 percent, the Office for National Statistics said today in London.

U.S. Economy

In the U.S., Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in remarks published yesterday that “it’s far too early to declare victory” on the economy. The jobless rate remains too high, he said in a transcript of an interview with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer provided by the network.

Orders for durable goods in the world’s biggest economy rose less than estimated in February, figures from the Commerce Department showed today. Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years increased 2.2 percent after dropping 3.7 percent a month earlier. Economists had forecast an gain of 3 percent, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Banca Popolare di Milano fell 5.4 percent to 44.53 euro cents as the lender posted a net loss of 614 million euros for 2011, compared with a profit a year earlier, after a goodwill writedown of 336 million euros in the fourth quarter.

JKX Oil & Gas plunged 14 percent to 157.75 pence after the company said it will not pay an interim dividend for 2011 and that financial resources over the next six months “will be stretched.”

Evraz Declines

Evraz Plc slid 5.5 percent to 359.80 pence. Russia’s largest steelmaker by output said net income dropped to $461 million last year from $486 million in 2010. That missed analysts’ estimate of $910 million.

ICAP Plc dropped 3.5 percent to 394.60 pence after the biggest broker of transactions between banks said it expects full-year performance to be in line with analyst estimates.

Neopost SA slipped 3 percent to 48.93 euros after Oddo & Cie. said the company will find it difficult to improve margins in 2012.

Nokia Oyj rose 3.5 percent to 4.14 euros after Swedbank AB upgraded the stock to buy from neutral, saying the mobile phone maker will ship “decent” volumes this year.

Finmeccanica SpA jumped 3.2 percent to 3.98 euros after Chief Executive Officer Giuseppe Orsi said today he sees no more exceptional losses in the future. The company said after the market closed yesterday that it sees 2012 earnings before interest, tax and amortization of about 1.1 billion euros, higher than analysts’ estimate of 935 million euros.

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