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European Stocks Advance as Ministers Meet on Rescue Funds

European stocks rose as euro-area finance ministers meet to discuss boosting the region’s rescue funds and investors await a report that may show spending by American consumers increased. U.S. index futures climbed and Asian shares fluctuated.

Credit Agricole SA advanced as it began talks with China’s Citic Securities Co. to sell its CLSA brokerage unit. Meyer Burger Technology AG and HeidelbergCement AG climbed after HSBC Holdings Plc raised its recommendations on the stocks.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.6 percent to 262.41 at 8:29 a.m. in London. The gauge has rallied 7.3 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 topped forecasts. Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in June advanced 0.4 percent today, while the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.1 percent.

“The U.S. recovery is now sustainable and, of course, Europe is still at pains but northern Europe remains one of the stronger areas in terms of growth,” said Larry Hatheway, a London-based economist and asset-allocation strategist at UBS AG. He spoke to Linda Yueh and Mark Barton in a Bloomberg Television interview.

The Stoxx 600 fell 1.3 percent yesterday, the most in three weeks, as S&P said Greece may have to restructure its debt again and more Americans than forecast filed claims for jobless benefits.

Financial Firewall

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said late yesterday in Copenhagen that governments will agree on a firewall of about 800 billion euros ($1.1 trillion). That sum includes the 500 billion-euro permanent rescue fund and bailouts already in place for Ireland, Portugal and Greece’s second rescue package, he said.

While ministers are nearing an agreement to raise the limit on rescue funds to 940 billion euros until mid-2013, the amount they will be able to deploy immediately to protect Spain and Italy will range between 340 billion euros and 640 billion euros.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will today unveil the most austere budget since before the nation’s return to democracy in 1978, risking a deeper recession in a bid to avoid succumbing to the debt crisis. Budget details will be released by about 2 p.m. in Madrid after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

U.S. Consumers

In the U.S., consumer spending probably climbed in February as an improving job market prompted Americans to buy more cars, economists said before a Commerce Department report today at 8:30 a.m. in Washington.

Purchases rose 0.6 percent, the most in five months, after a 0.2 percent gain in January, according to the median estimate of 83 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Separately, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final March confidence index fell to 74.5 from 75.3 the previous month, the median forecast in another survey showed.

Credit Agricole rose 1.2 percent to 4.67 euros after its corporate and investment banking unit entered exclusive talks with Citic Securities, China’s largest broker by market value, to sell the remaining 80.1 percent stake in its CLSA brokerage unit.

Meyer Burger Technology added 1.4 percent to 14.80 Swiss francs after HSBC raised its recommendation on the shares to neutral, the equivalent of hold, from underweight, the equivalent of sell.

HeidelbergCement advanced 2.6 percent to 44.67 euros after HSBC upgraded the stock to overweight from neutral, meaning that investors should hold more shares than is represented in benchmark indexes.

Commerzbank AG rose 2.1 percent to 1.90 euros. Germany’s second-largest lender plans to set up a so-called bad bank to liquidate its Eurohypo AG public-finance and commercial-property unit over the coming years, Handelsblatt reported, citing unidentified people in the finance industry.

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