European Stocks Little Changed Near Five-Year High

European stocks were little changed, after the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index yesterday extended its highest level since June 2008.

Zurich Insurance Group AG lost 3.3 percent after reporting earnings that missed estimates. Suedzucker AG tumbled 6.7 percent after forecasting full-year operating profit will decline. Cie. Financiere Richemont SA jumped 7.6 percent after full-year earnings beat analysts’ estimates.

The Stoxx 600 slipped less than 0.1 percent to 307.97 at the close of trading in London, after earlier rallying to its highest level in almost five years. The gauge has still climbed 10 percent so far in 2013, its best start to a year since 1998, bolstered by central-bank monetary stimulus.

“I think the obsession with all-time highs is a red herring,” said David Hussey, who helps oversee $248 billion as head of European equities at Manulife Asset Management in London. “The market has had a good run. A correction is entirely possible, but there is a wall of money out there that is going to buy on the dips. You have to be bullish on equities in the short to medium term.”

National benchmark indexes retreated in 12 of the 18 western-European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slipped 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX Index added 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 lost 0.1 percent.

Zurich, Suedzucker

Zurich Insurance lost 3.3 percent to 261.30 Swiss francs after Switzerland’s biggest insurer reported a 7 percent decline in first-quarter net income to $1.06 billion. That missed the $1.14 billion average estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

Chief Executive Officer Martin Senn said in a statement that the company is on track to meet its targets as all core businesses delivered “high-quality” operating performance.

Suedzucker tumbled 6.7 percent to 27.34 euros after Europe’s largest sugar producer forecast that full-year operating profit will fall “significantly” to about 825 million euros.

Vivendi SA dropped 2.7 percent to 15.30 euros after Activision Blizzard Inc. was said to have shelved a plan to buy back shares held by its French parent amid a disagreement on price. The world’s largest video-game publisher planned to buy at least part of Vivendi’s stake as recently as last month, people with knowledge of the talks said.

Vivendi, which has a 61 percent Activision holding valued at more than $10 billion, is still exploring how to extract cash from its stake, including a possible dividend recapitalization, one of the people said.

3i Group Plc lost 4.8 percent to 345.8 pence after the U.K.’s largest publicly traded private-equity firm reported a net value of its assets of 311 pence a share for the full year. That missed the 315 pence to 325 pence estimate of Iain Scouller, an analyst at Oriel Securities Ltd. in London who rates the stock a sell. The shares have still surged 59 percent so far this year.

Richemont jumped 7.6 percent to 88.80 francs after the owner of the Cartier brand reported full-year net income of 2.01 billion euros ($2.58 billion), beating analyst estimates for 1.96 billion euros. The company also proposed a dividend of 1 franc, topping forecasts.

Aviva Plc rallied 7.2 percent to 346.5 pence, the biggest gain since August 2012. The U.K.’s second-biggest insurer said the value of new business in the first quarter rose 18 percent to 191 million pounds ($290 million) as it raised prices and cut costs in its home market.

TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc jumped 6.6 percent to 242 pence. The company reported full-year sales in line with analyst estimates and forecast revenue growth of at least 2 percent for the year to end in March 2014. TalkTalk also proposed a full-year dividend of 10.4 pence a share.

Index Inclusion

Travis Perkins Plc increased 4.1 percent to 1,543 pence, its highest price since June 2007, after the company said “full-year earnings per share should be broadly in line with market expectations.” The shares also advanced after the company was included in the MSCI United Kingdom Index, prompting funds that track the gauge to buy the stock.

Persimmon Plc was also added to the index, sending the stock up 5.1 percent to 1,206 pence, its highest price since August 2007.

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