Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- European stocks were little changed, following the biggest two-day gain since April, as investors awaited central-bank cues on the interest-rate outlook.
Carlsberg A/S dropped 3.6 percent after the brewer cut its full-year earnings forecast. Balfour Beatty Plc tumbled 6.7 percent after Carillion Plc stopped pursuing a merger with the British builder. Heineken NV jumped the most since October 2008 after reporting profit for the first half of the year that exceeded analysts’ estimates.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped less than 0.1 percent to 335.3 at the close of trading in London, paring losses of as much as 0.4 percent. The benchmark gauge rallied 1.8 percent in the past two days as concern eased over the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, closing 3.3 percent from a low on Aug. 8.
“Investors are focusing on Jackson Hole and FOMC minutes for guidance on central banks,” said Jacques Porta, who helps oversee $780 million at Ofi Gestion Privee in Paris. “From Draghi, an indication of a huge and real quantitative-easing monetary policy can satisfy investors. From Yellen, investors want signs that a rate increase will come as late as possible. It’s difficult to buy the market if nothing changes.”
In the U.K., the Bank of England said two of its policy makers wanted an interest-rate increase this month, marking the first split on borrowing costs in more than three years, according to minutes of the Aug. 6-7 meeting published today. The Federal Reserve will release the minutes of its July 29-30 gathering after European markets close.
The annual Fed Bank of Kansas City’s economic symposium starts tomorrow in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Fed Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will discuss their outlook for the economy and monetary policy on Aug. 22.
National benchmark-equity indexes fell in 10 of the 18 markets in western Europe today. France’s CAC 40 lost 0.3 percent, and Germany’s DAX slid 0.2 percent. The FTSE 100 in the U.K. dropped 0.4 percent. The volume of Stoxx 600 shares changing hands today was 30 percent lower than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Carlsberg dropped 3.6 percent to 520 kroner. The Danish company, Russia’s biggest brewer, said operating profit will rise at a low- to mid-single-digit pace excluding acquisitions. It had forecast high-single-digit percentage growth. Carlsberg, which got 27 percent of its 2013 revenue from eastern Europe, said it expects the beer category to deteriorate in the second half of the year, with distributors in Russia stocking less.
Balfour Beatty plunged 6.7 percent to 238.9 pence. Carillion ended its pursuit to form Britain’s biggest builder after its increased offer was rejected. Carillion’s proposal valued Balfour Beatty at 2.1 billion pounds ($3.5 billion) in an offer that represented a premium of 36 percent to the weighted average share price before the talks were announced.
Carillion lost 2 percent to 330 pence.
Infineon Technologies AG fell 1.4 percent to 8.60 euros. Germany’s largest chipmaker is nearing agreement to buy a U.S.- based semiconductor company for about $2 billion, people familiar with the situation said. The deal could be announced as early as today, though the talks could still fall apart, the people said.
Luxottica Group SpA retreated 3.6 percent to 39.09 euros after Il Sole 24 Ore reported that founder Leonardo del Vecchio may ask Chief Executive Officer Andrea Guerra to resign.
Heineken jumped 8.3 percent to 57.31 euros. The world’s third-largest brewer posted first-half earnings before interest and taxes of 1.45 billion euros ($1.93 billion), excluding some items. That surpassed the 1.32 billion euros that analysts had projected in a Bloomberg survey.
Royal Vopak NV surged 13 percent, the most since at least November 1999, to 38.76 euros. The Dutch tank-storage provider said it expects 2014 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to exceed 700 million euros, excluding some items. The company had forecast a drop of 5 percent to 10 percent from 2013’s Ebitda of 753 million euros, implying as little as 677.7 million euros.
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