European stocks advanced the most in a week, paring a weekly drop for the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index, as Next Plc led retailers higher and investors awaited a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.
Next jumped to its highest price in at least 25 years after raising the profit forecast for its full accounting year and announcing a special dividend. Schroders Plc gained 1.2 percent after Barclays Plc advised investors to buy the stock. Remy Cointreau SA slipped 2.6 percent after Frederic Pflanz resigned as chief executive officer.
The Stoxx 600 added 0.6 percent to 327.64 at the close and was little changed for the week. The gauge rallied 17 percent last year as central banks around the world left interest rates low and the Fed’s decision to slow the pace of its stimulus booster investor confidence in the U.S. recovery.
“Next is a good surprise for the market and the U.K. economy,” Pierre Mouton, who helps oversee $6 billion as a portfolio manager at Notz, Stucki & Cie. in Geneva, said in a telephone interview. “Otherwise, we are seeing a quiet start to the year. My gut feeling is, this year, we will see the market moving a lot around the pace of tapering in the U.S.”
Bernanke will address the annual meeting of the American Economic Association at 2:30 p.m. in Philadelphia, four weeks before the end of his tenure as the head of the U.S. central bank. Fed Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser will also speak at the event. Investors will watch the speeches for clues on the direction of the monetary policy as the Fed begins tapering its bond purchases.
In Spain, registered unemployment fell by 107,570 people in December, the country’s labor ministry said in Madrid. That was largest drop since June. In China, a report showed services growth fell in December to the slowest in four months.
National benchmarks rose in all the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent. Germany’s DAX added 0.4 percent. France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.5 percent.
Next climbed 10 percent to 6,085 pence, its highest price since at least 1988, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.K.’s second-largest clothing retailer said pretax profit for the year ending this month will be 684 million pounds ($1.1 billion) to 700 million pounds. That compares with its forecast in October for earnings of 650 million pounds to 680 million pounds. Next said it will pay a special dividend of 50 pence a share on Feb. 3.
Marks & Spencer Group Plc rose 3.9 percent to 444 pence, it biggest increase since Nov. 5. Debenhams Plc, which slumped 12 percent on Dec. 31 after predicting a decline in first-half profit, added 3.9 percent to 78.1 pence today. A gauge of European retailers posted the biggest rally among the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600, climbing 1.3 percent.
Schroders gained 1.2 percent to 2,636 pence after Barclays upgraded the asset-management company to overweight, a rating similar to buy, from underweight, which corresponds to a sell recommendation. U.K. asset managers are set to benefit from a bullish outlook for equities in 2014, according to Barclays.
Telecom Italia SpA increased 6.9 percent to 75.8 euro cents after a report its largest owner is advancing a plan to sell the company’s Brazilian business to competitors. Telefonica SA is close to setting up a financial vehicle to split Tim Participacoes SA and sell it to rivals Vivo Participacoes SA, Oi SA and Carlos Slim’s Claro, Il Sole 24 Ore said.
Remy Cointreau, the producer of Remy Martin cognac, slipped 2.6 percent to 58.91 euros after the resignation of Pflanz, who will remain at the company as development director. Pflanz will have responsibility for assignments that he has already started, Remy Cointreau said.
Swiss Re Ltd., the world’s second-largest reinsurer, retreated 2.3 percent to 80.20 Swiss francs, its biggest drop since Aug. 6.