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European Stocks Rise as Finance Minsters Meet in Brussels

European Stocks Are Little Changed as Finance Ministers Meet
An employee stands at a desk beneath an electronic screen displaying share price information inside the Borsa Italiana, Italy's stock exchange. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

European stocks climbed to a one-week high as euro-area finance ministers met for the first time this year to address the region’s debt crisis. U.S. index futures advanced.

Admiral Group Plc rallied 4.9 percent to the highest since April as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended the U.K. auto insurer. Novozymes A/S jumped 7 percent after earnings beat analyst estimates. Cie. Financiere Richemont SA tumbled the most in seven months after the world’s second-largest maker of luxury goods reported sales that missed projections.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.3 percent to 287.78 at the close of trading, the highest since Jan. 9. The gauge has gained 2.9 percent this year after U.S. lawmakers agreed on a budget deal avoiding most tax increases and spending cuts that had threatened to push the economy into a recession. With the so-called fiscal cliff averted, Congress now must decide whether to lift the federal debt limit as soon as mid-February.

“I don’t think investors should be disengaging from risk at this stage,” Henk Potts, who helps oversee $282 billion as an equity strategist at Barclays Plc in London, said in a phone interview today. “The market could potentially see some consolidation as we head towards the debt-ceiling deadline in the U.S., but we would encourage investors to use any weakness to increase their exposure.”

S&P 500 futures rose 0.3 percent, with U.S. markets closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The volume of shares changing hands in Stoxx 600 companies today was 34 percent less than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Volatility Declines

The VStoxx Index, a measure of the price of options on the Euro Stoxx 50 Index, dropped 2.7 percent to 15.46, the lowest level since June 2007.

Euro-area finance ministers gathered in Brussels today to discuss how to channel firewall funds to banks. Policy makers were likely to debate how and when the 500 billion-euro ($666 billion) European Stability Mechanism can bypass governments.

In Asia, the Bank of Japan will expand asset purchases when a two-day meeting concludes tomorrow, according to all 23 economists in a Bloomberg survey. The median estimate projects a 10 trillion yen ($111 billion) increase.

National benchmark indexes climbed in 13 of Europe’s 18 western markets. France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX gained 0.6 percent while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.4 percent. The Swiss Market Index fell 0.4 percent.

Admiral surged 4.9 percent to 1,211 pence as Goldman Sachs raised its recommendation to buy from neutral and added the shares to its “conviction buy” list, citing the stock’s underperformance over the past six months.

Novozymes Chief

Novozymes rallied 7 percent to 172 kroner in Copenhagen, the largest jump since August 2011. The world’s biggest maker of enzymes used in washing-machine powder reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat estimates and named Peder Holk Nielsen as its chief executive officer.

Nielsen will succeed Steen Riisgaard, who is retiring on April 1 after 12 years in the role.

PostNL NV, the Dutch mail service with operations in the U.K., Germany and Italy, climbed 6.9 percent to 1.90 euros, the biggest gain since May 22. Lutetia Capital, a hedge fund, asked the company to detail plans to restore its dividend and raise its share price after losing out on 1.54 billion euros as United Parcel Service Inc. scrapped a takeover of TNT Express NV this month.

Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, increased 4 percent to 8.42 euros and International Consolidated Airlines Group advanced 2 percent to 212.5 pence as Credit Suisse Group AG upgraded the shares.

Henderson Upgrade

Henderson Group Plc rallied 5 percent to 158.7 pence after analysts from Citigroup Inc. and Shore Capital Group Ltd. raised the asset manager to buy.

Richemont led luxury companies lower, tumbling 5.6 percent to 74.30 Swiss francs for the biggest decline since June 1. The maker of Cartier jewelry said third-quarter revenue rose 9.3 percent to 2.86 billion euros ($3.8 billion), missing the 2.91 billion-euro average of seven analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg, after Asia Pacific sales stagnated.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods, declined 1 percent to 140 euros. Burberry Group Plc slid 1.4 percent to 1,367 pence in London and Swatch Group AG dropped 1.9 percent to 510 francs.

Pearson Plc retreated 2.9 percent to 1,202 pence. The owner of the Financial Times newspaper lowered its profit forecast for 2012 to about 84 pence a share from a previous estimate of 84.9 pence, citing tougher market conditions and significantly lower earnings at its professional education and FT Group businesses.

Sky Deutschland AG declined 5.3 percent to 4.50 euros, the largest drop since July. The German pay-TV company forecast a wider-than-estimated annual loss and said it will sell 20.4 million new shares at 4.46 euros apiece.

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