Most European stocks slipped as investors awaited the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting for indications on the duration of stimulus measures.
Nordea Bank AB sank the most in a year after the Swedish government sold a $3 billion stake in the country’s biggest lender. Konecranes Oyj slid 6.7 percent after the Finnish engineering company lowered its profit forecast. Alcatel-Lucent SA rallied to a 14-month high after announcing plans to sell at least 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) of assets.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.2 percent to 292.36 at the close of trading, as more than three shares declined for every two that gained. The gauge has lost 5.9 percent since May 22, when Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. central bank could pare stimulus measures if the world’s largest economy improves sustainably.
“At the very least the markets are looking for some clarification from Mr Bernanke,” Neil Mackinnon, a global macro strategist at VTB Capital Plc told Mark Barton in a Bloomberg Television interview in London. “There is an economic case for just keeping things on hold, but the Fed, the advisory council and even Mr Bernanke himself have said that quantitative easing might actually be creating financial imbalances and excessive risk taking.”
National benchmark indexes fell in 15 of the 18 western European markets. Germany’s DAX and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 0.4 percent, while France’s CAC 40 slid 0.6 percent.
The Federal Open Market Committee concludes its two-day policy meeting today, with Bernanke scheduled to speak after the close of European equity markets.
“As the long awaited FOMC decision is finally announced this evening, we have seen a much more relaxed view taking shape,” said Nick Xanders, an equity strategist at BTIG Ltd. in London. “Most expect him to continue to be accommodative, at least until the back half of the year.”
Nordea slid 4.7 percent to 75.05 kronor, the biggest decline since May 2012. Sweden sold 260 million shares in the bank at 75 kronor apiece to cut the country’s public debt. The sale reduces the government’s stake to 7 percent from 13.4 percent.
Swedish lenders SEB AB and Swedbank AB both declined, falling 3.5 percent to 65.45 kronor and 1.8 percent to 155.20 kronor, respectively.
Konecranes slid 6.7 percent to 22.65 euros, the largest decrease in a year. The world’s biggest supplier of industrial cranes lowered its full-year profit guidance, saying it now sees operating income ex-restructuring costs at 2012 levels. It had previously estimated an increase in earnings.
BT Group Plc retreated 1.8 percent to 313.7 pence after the U.K. phone company said Gavin Patterson will succeed Ian Livingston as chief executive officer. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said Livingston will be appointed a trade minister at the end of the year to replace former HSBC Holdings Plc Chairman Stephen Green.
Fomento de Construcciones & Contratas SA tumbled 5.2 percent to 7.43 euros in Madrid after the Spanish construction company’s Austrian unit, Alpine Holding GmbH, failed to reach a refinancing agreement with creditors.
Alpine Bau, the company’s operating unit with businesses in Austria, Germany and eastern Europe that employ 15,000 staff, plans to file for restructuring to rescue parts of the group, Alpine said in a statement. Alpine Holding will probably go insolvent in the process, it said.
Alcatel-Lucent rallied 6.2 percent to 1.50 euros, the highest since April 2012. The maker of network equipment announced plans to sell assets and save another 1 billion euros in fixed costs by 2015 to stem losses and focus the company on more promising business like ultra-high-speed Internet. After 2015, Alcatel will look to cut its debt by 2 billion euros by selling shares on the stock market or through further asset sales, the Paris-based company said.
Nokia Oyj climbed 3.4 percent to 2.85 euros. The mobile-phone maker’s American depositary receipts surged as much as 12 percent in after-market New York trading as the Financial Times reported that China’s Huawei Technologies Co. may be interested in buying the company.
Huawei is “considering these sorts of acquisitions,” Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business said, according to the FT. The ADRs pared gains after Huawei said it has “no plans” to purchase the struggling Finnish handset maker.
Eurobank Ergasias SA surged 30 percent to 2.01 euros after Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. agreed to increase its stake in Eurobank Properties to about 42 percent from 19 percent via a 200 million-euro rights offer. Eurobank, Greece’s second-biggest lender, will retain a stake of about 33.5 percent.