European stocks were little changed as U.S. housing starts for May missed estimates amid concern the Federal Reserve will signal stimulus cuts at its policy meeting starting today.
Kabel Deutschland Holding AG rose to a record after getting an offer from Liberty Global Plc. Aveva Group Plc jumped 5.4 percent as Citigroup Inc. upgraded the shares. Danske Bank A/S dropped 6.1 percent after Denmark’s financial regulator ordered it to increase its risk-weighted assets. Royal Imtech NV fell to the lowest price since 2004 after posting a first-quarter loss on costs relating to a fraud investigation.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost less than 0.1 percent to 293.02 at the close of trading. The gauge has declined 5.7 percent since Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said May 22 the central bank could scale back stimulus measures if the U.S. economy improves sustainably.
“I don’t think we’ll get clear messages because I don’t think the Fed themselves really have a clear plan as to when they’ll do it,” Lucy Macdonald, chief investment officer for equities at Allianz Global Investors, told Manus Cranny on Bloomberg Television. “We’ve been through a very strong market since the beginning of the year. Volatility has gone up a little and it will probably stay at that level.”
U.S. housing starts climbed 6.8 percent, less than forecast, to a 914,000 annualized rate in May after a revised 856,000 pace in April, Commerce Department figures showed in Washington. The median estimate of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 950,000 rate.
The Federal Open Market Committee begins a two-day policy meeting today, with Bernanke scheduled to address the press tomorrow. At the press conference, Bernanke may signal the central bank is close to tapering its quantitative easing, the Financial Times wrote. The newspaper didn’t cite anyone.
A report showed German investor confidence increased this month. The ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim, Germany, said its index of investor and analyst expectations rose to 38.5 this month from 36.4 in May. Economists on average had forecast 38.1. Zero is the dividing line between optimism and pessimism.
National benchmark indexes climbed in 12 of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.7 percent, while Germany’s DAX added 0.2 percent. France’s CAC 40 lost less than 0.1 percent.
Kabel Deutschland advanced 3.7 percent to 85.51 euros, its highest price since it sold shares to the public in March 2010. Germany’s largest cable TV operator said it received a proposal from Liberty, the cable company controlled by John Malone. The offer comes after Vodafone Group Plc last week said it approached the German company about a takeover.
Liberty offered Kabel Deutschland about 85 euros a share, the Financial Times reported. Vodafone’s informal offer valued the German cable company at between 81 and 82 euros a share, people familiar with the matter said June 12.
Vodafone, the world’s second-biggest wireless carrier, added 0.9 percent to 184.35 pence.
Aveva jumped 5.4 percent to 2,373 pence as Citigroup raised its recommendation on the shares to buy from neutral. The U.K. maker of engineering-software products is well positioned for “robust growth” as it starts selling its E3D software for three-dimensional design, Citigroup said in a note.
Danske Bank fell 6.1 percent to 104.90 kroner, its biggest retreat since October, after the Financial Supervisory Authority asked it to adjust its internal-rating model in a step that will require the lender to add about 100 billion kroner ($18 billion) to its risk-weighted assets “over time.” Denmark’s biggest lender had underestimated its risky assets, the regular said yesterday.
Royal Imtech tumbled 12 percent to 7.32 euros, the lowest price since November 2004. The Dutch infrastructure provider reported a first-quarter net loss of 59.6 million euros ($80 million), citing the costs of a probe into fraudulent actions in Poland and Germany as the primary cause.
A gauge of automotive-related companies fell for the first time in three days as a report showed European Union car sales fell to a 20-year low in May.
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG retreated 1 percent to 69.87 euros and Daimler AG slid 0.9 percent to 47.18 euros.
Aggreko Plc, the largest supplier of mobile power supplies, declined 2.2 percent to 1,752 pence after maintaining its full-year outlook and saying trading in power projects remains “subdued.”