European Stocks Are Little Changed as ZEW Index Weakens
European stocks were little changed, after two days of gains, as a measure of German investor confidence fell more than forecast and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index missed estimates.
Inditex SA lost 4 percent as Citigroup Inc. lowered its rating on the retailer. Centrica (CNA) Plc slid 1.3 percent after UBS AG recommended selling shares in the largest energy supplier to U.K. households. Casino (CO) Guichard-Perrachon SA rallied 3.2 percent after posting an 18 percent jump in 2013 earnings.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added less than 0.1 percent to 334.6 at the close of trading. The benchmark gauge advanced 2.5 percent last week after the Federal Reserve said its stimulus policy will remain responsive to economic data and as companies including Renault SA and ThyssenKrupp AG posted better-than-expected earnings.
“The ZEW report from Germany disappointed this morning,” Arnaud Scarpaci, a Paris-based fund manager at Montaigne Capital, which manages about $271 million, said in an interview today. “I have been overweight in Europe this year and now am inclined to reduce my exposure.”
German investor confidence fell for a second month in February. The ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim said its index of investor and analyst expectations, which aims to predict economic developments six months in advance, slid to 55.7 from 61.7 in January, after reaching a seven-year high of 62 in December. Economists had forecast a decline to 61.5, according to a Bloomberg News survey.
National benchmark indexes retreated in 12 of the 18 western-European markets today. France’s CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX rose less than 0.1 percent, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 added 0.9 percent.
“In 2014, you’re not going to get that rising tide that lifts all boats,” Andrew Goldberg, who helps oversee $1.6 trillion as global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in London today. “It’s going to be a much more discerning market. If the equity part of portfolio has swollen into something too big, you’ve got to pull back.”
A report today showed manufacturing in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut slowed this month. The Fed Bank of New York’s general economic index fell to 4.48 in February from 12.5 in January. Economists in a Bloomberg News survey predicted the index would decline to 8.5. Positive readings mean that activity expanded.
Inditex lost 4 percent to 105.15 euros, its lowest price since September. Citigroup cut the owner of the Zara chain to neutral from buy and lowered its 2015 pre-tax earnings estimate by 3 percent, citing negative foreign exchange effects.
Centrica slid 1.3 percent to 314.4 pence. UBS lowered its recommendation on the Windsor, United Kingdom-based company to sell from neutral, saying potential political intervention may hurt its ability to write long-term contracts and reduce investment confidence. U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey on Feb. 10 said he asked the regulator to investigate whether the former state monopoly is profiting from too-high tariffs.
Alstom SA (ALO) fell 3.8 percent to 20.18 euros. The French government has appointed an unnamed group of consultants to study the train and power-equipment maker’s market position and its strategic options, newspaper Les Echos reported, citing an unidentified person in government.
Separately, Chief Executive Officer Patrick Kron said in a statement today that Alstom is not planning a capital increase.
Lafarge SA, the French cement maker, fell 3.3 percent to 52.60 euros and its Swiss peer Holcim Ltd. lost 0.8 percent to 68.55 Swiss francs. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its rating of both companies to sell, citing foreign-exchange risks from emerging-market currencies. Goldman also said that Lafarge may not achieve its cost-cutting targets.
A gauge of construction-related stocks posted the second-worst performance of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx 600.
InterContinental Hotels Group Plc (IHG) slipped 3.2 percent to 1,981 pence. The world’s largest provider of hotel accommodation said renovation costs will hurt this year’s earnings. Operating profit before exceptional items and tax in 2013 climbed to $668 million from $605 million a year earlier, the Denham, England-based company said today in a statement.
Casino rose 3.2 percent to 80.85 euros, for its biggest gain since October. The owner of Monoprix and Big C supermarkets said so-called trading profit advanced to 2.36 billion euros ($3.24 billion). That beat analysts’ calls for 2.35 billion euros. Casino also said it’s targeting a resumption of sales growth in France this year.
Delhaize Group SA (DELB) gained 3.9 percent to 49.77 euros. Morgan Stanley upgraded the owner of the Food Lion supermarkets to overweight, similar to a buy rating, from equal weight, saying it will perform better than its European peers on its ability to generate sustainable free cash flow.
Hochtief AG climbed 4.7 percent to 62.74 euros. Goldman Sachs raised the German builder controlled by Spain’s Actividades de Construccion & Servicios SA to buy from neutral, citing its recent performance lagging its peers and the possibility of a share buyback.
Hochtief has risen 1.1 percent since the start of the year, compared with the 4 percent gain of a gauge of construction-related shares on the Stoxx 600.
Pandora A/S (PNDORA) advanced 2 percent to 324.90 Danish kroner. The jeweler known for its charm bracelets announced its biggest ever share buyback after fourth-quarter profit beat estimates.
Pandora will buy back as much as 2.4 billion kroner ($440 million) of stock in 2014, the Glostrup-based company said today as it reported a 76 percent increase in net income for the final three months of 2013.
MTU Aero Engines AG climbed 1 percent to 63.61 euros. The German aircraft-engine manufacturer said 2013 sales rose 11 percent to 3.74 billion euros. That beat the 3.72 billion euros estimated by analysts.
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