Europe Stocks Little Changed as Bernanke Backs Bond Plan

European stocks were little changed near a five-year high after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke signalled the central bank will maintain stimulus measures to support the U.S. economic recovery.

Antofagasta Plc led a rally in commodity producers as base metals rose. Metro AG jumped 10 percent after Morgan Stanley recommended that investors buy the German retailer for the first time in a decade. Pandora A/S lost 11 percent after Prometheus cut its holding in the Danish maker of jewellery.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.2 percent to 310.59 at the close of trading. The gauge, which yesterday climbed to its highest level since June 2008, has rallied 97 percent since March 2009 as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to preserve the euro and the Federal Reserve embarked on three rounds of stimulus.

“Bernanke has confirmed a bias to remain fully engaged in supportive measures and avoid premature tightening,” said Ioan Smith, a strategist at Knight Capital Europe Ltd. in London. “So, no imminent slowing in asset purchases equals ongoing support for the market.”

The U.S. economy remains hampered by high unemployment and government spending cuts, and tightening policy too soon would endanger the recovery, Bernanke said today in testimony prepared for a hearing at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in Washington.

The Fed chairman is leading the most aggressive economic stimulus in the central bank’s 100-year history in an effort to spur growth in the world’s largest economy and reduce an unemployment rate that stands at 7.5 percent.

King Defeated

In the U.K., Bank of England Governor Mervyn King was defeated for a fourth month in his bid to expand stimulus. Six members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to keep quantitative easing at 375 billion pounds ($568 billion) this month, according to minutes from the BOE’s May 8-9 meeting. King, David Miles and Paul Fisher backed increasing it by 25 billion pounds.

National benchmark indexes climbed in 13 of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 added 0.5 percent, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.4 percent and Germany’s DAX jumped 0.7 percent.

Mining companies rallied with base metal prices on the London Metal Exchange. Antofagasta Plc increased 3.9 percent to 1,002 pence, Glencore Xstrata Plc advanced 3.5 percent to 351 pence and Anglo American Plc climbed 2 percent to 1,653.5 pence.

Metro Surges

Metro jumped 10 percent to 27.34 euros, its biggest gain since November 2008. Morgan Stanley upgraded the retailer to overweight, the equivalent of a buy rating, from equal weight, and added the stock to its best ideas list, citing a possible reversal of declining cash and carry sales, the stabilization of Metro’s MediaMarkt stores and potential disposals.

Britvic Plc, the U.K. maker of Robinsons Barley Water, surged 11 percent to 522.5 pence, its highest price since at least 2005, after reporting first-half pretax profit of 37.5 million pounds, beating the average analyst estimate of 27.4 million pounds.

Lagardere SCA, France’s largest publisher, advanced 3.4 percent to 28.75 euros after JPMorgan Chase & Co. upgraded the stock to neutral from underweight, citing its underperformance relative to other media shares.

Pandora tumbled 11 percent to 200 Danish kroner after Prometheus sold 13 million shares, raising 2.6 billion kroner ($451 million) in gross proceeds. Prometheus will retain a 40.9 percent stake in the company.

Morrison Placement

Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc lost 2.3 percent to 282.6 pence after UBS AG sold 103 million shares on behalf of an institutional seller at 280 pence each, according to terms of the sale obtained by Bloomberg News.

Terna Rete Elettrica Nazionale SpA fell 3.4 percent to 3.39 euros. UniCredit SpA sold a 5.4 percent stake in the electricity company on behalf of Romano Minozzi, Iris Ceramica SpA, Castellarano Fiandre SpA and Finanziaria Ceramica Castellarano SpA.

The volume of shares changing hands in Stoxx 600 companies was 11 percent greater than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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