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European Stocks Little Changed as Bouygues, Iliad Gain

European stocks were little changed as the benchmark index pared gains after data showed U.S. retail sales grew slower than estimated and more Americans than forecast made jobless claims.

Bouygues SA rose 5.2 percent after a report that Orange SA is studying a cash offer for its telecommunications unit and Iliad SA advanced 6.3 percent after France said it’ll push for a merger among phone companies. Anglo American Plc dropped 3.2 percent, leading a gauge of commodity producers lower, after Morgan Stanley recommended selling the stock.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added less than 0.1 percent to 347.83 at the close in London. The gauge slid yesterday from its highest level since January 2008 as companies including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Vallourec SA cut their profit forecasts.

“Most big investors are still underweight on European equities and therefore the risk is on the upside,” Herbert Perus, who helps oversee $36 billion as head of equities at Raiffeisen Capital Management in Vienna, wrote in an e-mail.

U.S. Commerce Department figures showed that spending at retailers climbed 0.3 percent last month after rising 0.5 percent in April. That missed the median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey that called for a 0.6 percent increase in May. A Labor Department report showed first-time applications for unemployment benefits jumped to 317,000 last week.

Iraq Turmoil

Investors also watched Iraq where militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda offshoot, captured cities and took hostages. The military attacked the militants in a bid to halt their progress, while the U.S. weighed a request for air support amid President Barack Obama’s reluctance to revisit a war he had declared ended.

National benchmark indexes advanced in 9 of the 18 markets in western Europe. Germany’s DAX fell 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 fell less than 0.1 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 gained less than 0.1 percent.

Bouygues advanced 5.2 percent to 33.67 euros and Iliad gained 6.3 percent to 235 euros. Les Echos reported that Orange is studying a cash offer for Bouygues Telecom even after Bouygues said their merger talks have failed. Separately, Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg said France will use all means to push for a merger among the country’s phone companies to help reduce price wars and make job cuts unnecessary. Bouygues said yesterday its talks with Iliad also failed.

Provident Financial Plc climbed 3.2 percent to 2,241 pence, its highest price since at least 1989. Citigroup Inc. upgraded the shares to buy from neutral, citing cost savings and revenue-growth potential.


ITV Plc increased 1.6 percent to 179.4 pence. Omnicom Group Inc. has halted all media spending with Channel 5 until the end of this year and moved advertisements to ITV, according to a BrandRepublic online report.

Lonmin Plc advanced 8.9 percent to 257.7 pence, its biggest rally since January 2013. The mining company, along with two other platinum producers, agreed on a wage deal with the biggest union at their South African mines. The union will take the proposals to its members to end a 20-week pay strike.

Anglo American lost 3.2 percent to 1,418 pence after Morgan Stanley downgraded the company to underweight, or sell, from equal weight, or hold, calling its profit target too ambitious. The brokerage also cut its forecasts for iron-ore prices.

A gauge of commodity producers posted the biggest decline among the 19 industry groups on Stoxx 600, falling 1.4 percent.

Banco Comercial Portugues SA tumbled 6.1 percent to 17.88 euro cents. Portugal’s second-biggest publicly traded lender is planning to raise as much as 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) to bolster capital, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

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