European stocks were little changed, after swinging between gains and losses, as investors weighed economic data and the growing conflict in Ukraine for their impact on company earnings.
African Barrick Gold Plc plunged the most in 14 months after its majority shareholder sold a 10 percent stake. Galenica AG tumbled the most since July 2012 as its forecast fell short of some analysts’ estimates. Hannover Re fell 1.3 percent after reporting a 35 percent drop in quarterly operating profit. Geberit AG rallied to a record after naming a new chief executive officer and saying profitability increased.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added less than 0.1 percent to 331.49 at the close in London. The equity benchmark has dropped 2 percent from a six-year high on Feb. 25 as tensions escalated between Russia and the U.S. over the future of Ukraine.
“Investors can get very nervous with geopolitical risk but there is a lot of liquidity to stabilize the market as soon as prices come down,” said Carsten Hilck, who oversees about $6.9 billion at Union Investment Privatfonds GmbH in Frankfurt. “These two opposing factors are dominating the market at the moment. You just have to live with all kinds of risks, decide if they are being priced in, and create chances where you can.”
Benchmark indexes rose in 11 of the 18 markets in western Europe. Germany’s DAX climbed 0.5 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost less than 0.1 percent and France’s CAC 40 slid 0.5 percent.
Russia showed no signs of yielding in the Crimean standoff as Ukraine bolstered its defenses before its prime minister meets U.S. President Barack Obama tomorrow.
In addition to testing its military’s combat readiness, Ukraine may mobilize 20,000 people to protect borders, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said. Russia has vowed to defend the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea after an uprising unseated Ukraine’s Moscow-backed leader. It rejects the legitimacy of the new cabinet in Kiev.
Data today showed German exports jumped 2.2 percent in January, more than the 1.5 percent increase projected by economists in a Bloomberg survey. That was the biggest month-on-month growth since May 2012. Imports jumped 4.1 percent in the period, also exceeding estimates.
African Barrick Gold tumbled 19 percent to 250 pence, its biggest retreat since Jan. 8, 2013. Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp., which held 74 percent of African Barrick, sold 41 million shares for 275 pence each.
Galenica dropped 4.1 percent to 891.5 Swiss francs. The drug retailer said it expects 2014 profit to be at least at the same level as last year. Kepler Cheuvreux SA said the forecast was below its estimate for earnings growth of 5 percent.
A gauge of retailers on the Stoxx 600 slid a fourth day. Carrefour SA lost 1.4 percent to 27.71 euros. Portugal’s Jeronimo Martins SGPS SA declined 0.9 percent to 11.88 euros.
Hannover Re declined 1.3 percent to 59.94 euros. The reinsurer said earnings before interest and taxes dropped to 243.3 million euros ($337 million) in the final three months of 2013 because of weakness in life and health reinsurance. Bankhaus Lampe KG said Hannover Re’s operating performance missed analysts’ estimates.
Geberit AG gained 3.2 percent to 287.40 francs. The maker of bathroom fittings and plumbing products said Christian Buhl will take over as CEO from Albert M. Baehny at the beginning of 2015. The company also said net income increased to 435.8 million francs in 2013, or 19 percent of sales. Profitability on that measure was the highest since the company first sold shares to the public in 1999, according to a statement.
UniCredit SpA jumped 6.2 percent to 6.42 euros, the biggest gain since September 2012. The bank, which posted results today, said it will cut jobs and sell assets as part of a five-year plan to strengthen its finances. The move will comfort investors concerned about asset quality, Mediobanca S.p.A. said after the announcement.
Close Brothers Group Plc rose 2.1 percent to 1,470 pence. The British financial-services company founded in 1878 increased its interim dividend to 16.5 pence, more that the 16 pence forecast calculated by Bloomberg.
Inchcape Plc advanced 4.2 percent to 640.5 pence. The U.K. vehicle distributor said pretax profit before exceptional items was 274.6 million pounds ($456 million) in 2013, exceeding the average analyst estimate of 271.1 million pounds.