European stocks were little changed, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index trading near a six-year high, as investors weighed corporate earnings.
Vodafone Group Plc fell to a 14-month low after predicting profit will drop this year. Deutsche Annington Immobilien SE tumbled 5.6 percent as investors sold a 12.5 percent stake in the German landlord. Carnival Plc gained the most in five months after announcing a fleet expansion in Australia and as Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the shares. United Internet AG rose the most since August 2010 after reporting quarterly sales that beat analysts’ estimates.
The Stoxx 600 slipped less than 0.1 percent to 338.32 at the close of trading. The gauge is trading within 1.1 percent of its May 13 peak that was the highest level since January 2008. The number of shares trading hands in Stoxx 600-listed stocks was 14 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.
“Sentiment is clearly improving across the board, but a lot still depends on earnings really picking up and the macro data remaining on the right course,” said James Butterfill, who helps oversee 28.5 billion pounds ($48 billion) as head of global equity strategy at Coutts & Co. in London. “Markets are not cheap anymore, but certainly still attractive on a relative basis. Leading indicators suggest that corporate margins will continue to expand and we’re still overweight Europe.”
Europe’s benchmark index trades at 15.1 times the projected earnings of its members, compared with the five-year average of 12.5 times, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Profit for companies on the Stoxx 600 will probably climb an average 8.6 percent in 2014, analysts predict. That compares with a January estimate for an increase of 14 percent.
National benchmark indexes fell in 11 of the 18 western-European markets today. France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.4 percent, while Germany’s DAX lost 0.2 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 retreated 0.6 percent.
Vodafone declined 5.5 percent to 205.3 pence, its lowest price since February 2013. The mobile-services provider predicted that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will fall as much as 11 percent in the year ending March 2015. So-called annual organic revenue from its mobile services dropped 3.8 percent, less than the 3.9 percent analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg.
Deutsche Annington tumbled 5.6 percent to 20.18 euros, for its biggest slide since its initial public offering in July. Monterey Holdings I Sarl, which is owned by the Terra Firma Deutsche Annington Fund, and CPI Capital Partners Europe GP LLC sold a 12.5 percent stake in the German landlord at 19.50 euros a share, according to a statement.
Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer Group Plc lost 1.1 percent to 446 pence, falling for a fifth day. The retailer said its new website may take as much as six months to settle, and that this will impact its general-merchandise business. The company also said operating costs will probably increase 4 percent during the current year.
Carnival rose 3.4 percent to 2,380 pence after Morgan Stanley upgraded its rating on the shares to equal weight from underweight, meaning investors should no longer sell them. The brokerage said the leisure-travel business is recovering and that the management is looking to reduce costs. Separately, Carnival said its P&O Cruises unit in Australia will add two new ships to its fleet next year.
United Internet, a German online-access and domain provider, advanced 6.6 percent to 33.77 euros. First-quarter sales jumped 13 percent to 710 million euros ($973 million), topping the 705 million-euro average analyst projection compiled by Bloomberg. The company said it added 190,000 customer contracts in the quarter.
Sonova Holding AG climbed 2 percent to 134.60 Swiss francs. The maker of hearing aids proposed a dividend of 1.90 francs ($2.13) a share, more than the Bloomberg dividend forecast of 1.80 francs. Annual sales of 1.95 billion francs exceeded analysts’ projection for 1.93 billion francs.
Piraeus Bank SA jumped 6.5 percent to 1.48 euros as Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit upgraded its rating on the stock to buy from underperform, or sell. The Greek lender lost 33 percent since March 4 through yesterday.
Alpha Bank AE advanced 5 percent to 63 euro cents as the brokerage raised its rating to buy from neutral. That followed a 20 percent drop since since March 20 through yesterday. Bank of America said the recent decline in share prices offers value as Greek banking recovers.
Credit Suisse Group AG rose 1 percent to 26.32 francs after agreeing to settle a three-year investigation in the U.S. The bank agreed to pay $2.6 billion in penalties and pleaded guilty to helping Americans cheat on their taxes.