European stocks were little changed, near their highest level since May 2008, after a report showed U.S. companies hired more workers than forecast.
A gauge of European banks rose for a fourth day as bond yields fell for the region’s most indebted countries. Celesio AG rallied 9.3 percent amid a report that McKesson Corp. may increase its bid for the drug distributor. J Sainsbury Plc lost 2.4 percent after the retailer cut its full-year sales forecast. Kion Group AG slid 2 percent after its biggest shareholder sold a 10.8 percent stake in the forklift maker.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.1 percent to 329.75 at the close of trading in London after the equity benchmark yesterday climbed to its highest level in five years and seven months. The volume of shares changing hands in companies listed on the Stoxx 600 was 53 percent greater than the average of the past 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“It’s becoming increasingly hard to argue against the resilience of the U.S. economy,” said William Hobbs, the London-based head of equity strategy at Barclays Plc’s wealth-management unit. “Risk appetite will continue to rise. The private sector can sustain its growth and we are exiting 2013 at a stronger pace than many expected.”
A report from the ADP Research Institute showed that U.S. companies added 238,000 workers in December, beating the median projection of 200,000 in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. They hired a net 229,000 in November. The Labor Department publishes the unemployment rate and hiring figures for last month on Friday.
The Fed releases minutes from its December meeting after the close of European markets today. The central bank said after that meeting it would reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion from January. The bond-buying program has swelled the Fed’s balance sheet to more than $4 trillion.
The International Monetary Fund plans to increase its forecast for world growth, Managing Director Christine Lagarde told reporters in Nairobi yesterday. The organization intends to announce its new forecast in about three weeks, she said. The IMF currently estimates the global economy will expand by 3.6 percent this year.
The European Union’s statistics agency reported that unemployment in the euro area remained at 12.1 percent in November. That matched the median economist forecast. A Bundesbank release showed that German factory orders climbed 2.1 percent in November, exceeding the median estimate of 1.5 percent in a Bloomberg survey.
National equity benchmarks rose in 11 of the 18 western-European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 declined 0.5 percent. Germany’s DAX fell 0.1 percent while France’s CAC 40 slipped less than 0.1 percent
The Stoxx 600 Banks Index added 1.3 percent to its highest level since April 2011 as yields fell for benchmark debt in Greece and Spain. Banco Popular Espanol SA climbed 8.9 percent to 5.40 euros. BNP Paribas SA, France’s biggest lender, rose 1.4 percent to 58.19 euros, its highest price since February 2011.
Celesio surged 9.3 percent to 24.50 euros, its biggest rally in three months. McKesson has held talks with Elliott Management Corp., which holds more than 25 percent of the voting rights in Celesio, about increasing its offer, three people familiar with the matter said. Dow Jones reported that the U.S. company may increase its bid to 25 euros a share. It offered 23 euros a share in October.
Aveva Group Plc soared 6.5 percent 2,261 pence, its largest increase in almost six months, as UBS AG upgraded the stock to buy from neutral, citing better value. The U.K. maker of computer software traded at 24.4 times its projected earnings yesterday, down from last year’s peak of 30.8 times.
SAP AG gained 1.7 percent to 62.55 euros after UBS raised its rating on the German maker of enterprise-resource-planning software to buy from neutral. Analyst Michael Briest increased his 12-month price target by 13 percent to 70 euros, citing the valuation. The shares trade at 16.9 times projected earnings, less than the 19.7 multiple for an index of European technology companies, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.
Sainsbury dropped 2.4 percent to 360 pence after earlier climbing as much as 3.9 percent. Chief Financial Officer John Rogers said on a conference call with analysts and investors that same-store sales for the company’s financial year will rise less than 1 percent. That compared with his prediction for growth of 1 percent to 1.5 percent on Nov. 13.
Tesco Plc, which reports December sales tomorrow, slid 1 percent to 328.3 pence.
Kion, which first sold shares to the public in June 2013, slipped 2 percent to 30.14 euros after Superlift Holding Sarl sold 10.7 million shares in the company for about 315 million euros ($428 million).
Imperial Tobacco Group Plc retreated 2.9 percent to 2,247 pence. China’s National Health & Family-Planning Commission has begun work on new rules to ban smoking in public places, the South China Morning Post reported. The newspaper cited Mao Qunan, a spokesman for the government’s health commission.