European Stocks Drop as Investors Weigh Stimulus Outlook

European stocks fell, posting the biggest two-day drop in a month, as investors weighed corporate earnings and speculated stronger economic data will spur central banks to pare stimulus measures.

Stada Arzneimittel AG and Banco Popolare SC declined at least 5.5 percent after reporting profit that missed estimates. ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG slumped to a five-week low after its largest shareholder sold an almost 16 percent stake. ICAP Plc advanced 4.1 percent after saying cost cuts will boost results this year.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 0.6 percent to 319.82 at the close of trading. The gauge rallied for the past five weeks as the European Central Bank lowered its key interest rate and the Federal Reserve maintained bond purchases.

“We’re near the end of the earnings season and it was half light, half shadows,” Andreas Lipkow, a senior market strategist at Kliegel & Hafner AG in Berlin, said by telephone. “In the next few days, jobless claims and manufacturing data out of the U.S. will give more information about the Fed’s plans. Everybody is guessing when tapering will begin and the market is nervous about this.”

National benchmark indexes fell in 15 of the 18 western European markets. France’s CAC 40 lost 0.6 percent and Germany’s DAX slid 0.2 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 slid 1.4 percent, its biggest retreat in almost three months.

Fed Policy

Investors will watch U.S. economic reports this week on first-time claims for unemployment benefits and manufacturing in the New York area for clues on when the Fed will reduce the pace of its stimulus. The central bank may delay a decision until March, when it may pare monthly bond purchases to $70 billion from $85 billion, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey on Nov. 8. The Fed next meets Dec. 17-18.

The Bank of England today brought forward the likely date for the U.K.’s unemployment rate to fall to 7 percent to the third quarter of 2015. That level is the trigger when the central bank may consider raising its benchmark interest rate.

The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics said the jobless rate as measured by the International Labour Organisation standards declined to 7.6 percent, the lowest since 2009, in the third quarter.

Stada Arzneimittel dropped 5.5 percent to 37.88 euros for the biggest decline in more than a year. The drugmaker posted nine-month adjusted net income of 100.3 million euros ($135 million), missing analysts’ projection for 105 million euros.

Bank Shares

Banco Popolare slid 6.1 percent to 1.34 euros. The Italian lender reported third-quarter net income of 9.26 million euros, missing analysts’ estimate of 47.5 million euros.

A gauge of bank shares fell 1.2 percent, for the third-biggest decline among the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600. Standard Chartered Plc lost 2.5 percent to 1,448 pence after Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd. advised investors to sell the shares. UniCredit SpA dropped 4.5 percent to 5.21 euros. Commerzbank AG decreased 2.4 percent to 10.09 euros.

ProSiebenSat.1 tumbled 4 percent to 32.09 euros after its largest shareholder cut its stake for the second time this year. A holding firm controlled by funds of KKR & Co. and Permira Advisers LLP sold 35 million shares for about 1.1 billion euros at 31.53 euros apiece. The private-equity firms had acquired ProSiebenSat.1 in 2006 and tried to sell the broadcaster earlier this year. After failing to find a buyer, they started selling the shares in the market.

Mediaset SpA tumbled 7.5 percent to 3.50 euros for the biggest drop in eight months. The broadcaster posted a third-quarter net loss of 57.4 million euros.

ICAP jumped 4.1 percent to 391.8 pence. The world’s largest broker of transactions between banks predicted pretax profit before exceptional items for the 12 months through March 2014 will be “marginally ahead of the prior year.”

Drax Group Plc rose 2.6 percent to 653 pence. The operator of the U.K.’s biggest coal-fired power station forecast 2013 adjusted profit and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will beat analysts’ estimates.

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