Most European Stocks Advance Before U.S. Economic Report

Most European stocks advanced amid shortened trading hours for Christmas Eve and before a report on U.S. new-house sales. U.S. index futures and Asian shares were little changed.

Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, a Dutch dredging company, gained 2.7 percent after winning a $275-million contract in Australia. Bankia SA rose 1 percent after the Spanish lender sold its stakes in private-equity firms.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.2 percent to 324.05 at the close as more than two stocks climbed for every one that dropped. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose 0.2 percent. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures were little changed, while the MSCI Asia Pacific Index increased less than 0.1 percent.

“The momentum in the economy is improving,” Joost van Leenders, who helps oversee about $654 billion as a strategist at BNP Paribas Investment Partners in Amsterdam, said by telephone. “It will be a positive year for equities next year, driven by earnings growth. In the short term, investors are likely window dressing and positioning themselves in the winning asset class.”

European stocks yesterday completed their biggest four-day rally since April after the International Monetary Fund said it will raise its forecast for U.S. economic growth. The Stoxx 600 has gained 16 percent this year, putting it on course for its best annual performance since 2009, as the European Central Bank and the Bank of England pledged to leave interest rates near record lows for a prolonged period.

‘Synchronized Growth’

“A more synchronized growth story is set to unfold in 2014, with each of the major regions logging positive gross domestic product and most seeing a pick-up over 2013,” Hans Olsen, the New York-based chief investment officer for the Americas at Barclays Wealth, wrote in a report. “The prospect of greater volatility and lower returns aside, developed equity markets will likely offer a compensatory return for investors.”

U.S. GDP will probably accelerate in 2014, according to economists’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg, while the euro area will return to growth after two years of contraction. Japan may expand for a third year, the forecasts show.

The London Stock Exchange ended trading at 12:30 p.m. local time today, while NYSE Euronext’s European cash markets closed 35 minutes later. The Madrid bourse closed at 2 p.m. local time. No trading took place in Germany, Switzerland, Italy or the Nordic countries today.

The Euro Stoxx 50 Index rose 0.1 percent today as 31 of its 50 constituents traded. The volume of shares changing hands in Stoxx 600-listed companies was 73 percent lower than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Japanese Equities

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average climbed above 16,000 today for the first time since 2007 before paring its advance in late afternoon trading.

The Commerce Department will release figures on new house sales for last month at 10 a.m. They will show that Americans bought 440,000 new properties at an annual pace in November, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. New-house sales amounted to 444,000 in October.

Boskalis advanced 2.7 percent to 38.22 euros. The company said its Dockwise business has won a contract to transport equipment from China and Malaysia to Chevron Corp.’s Wheatstone project in Western Australia. Separately, Het Financieele Dagblad reported that Boskalis has started talks to buy Fairmount Marine BV. The newspaper cited a company spokesman.

Bankia, BSkyB

Bankia added 1 percent to 1.17 euros. The lender said after markets closed yesterday that it has reached an agreement with an unidentified buyer to cede its stakes in a portfolio of venture-capital firms. It disclosed no financial details.

British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, the U.K.’s largest pay-TV provider, rose 2.5 percent to 833 pence. The Daily Mail cited speculation that Vodafone Group Plc may bid for BSkyB to bundle its mobile-phone services with the satellite TV company’s broadband, TV and landline products. Vodafone’s shares added 0.2 percent to 236.5 pence.

Publicis Groupe SA climbed 0.8 percent to 65.06 euros after the advertising agency said that Lagardere SCA has bought its 49 percent stake in a media business. Regie 1 is the media agency for Lagardere’s radio station, Europe 1.

International Personal Finance Plc sank 12 percent to 540 pence, its worst performance since November 2011. The lender of small, unsecured cash loans said the Polish Office of Consumer Protection and Competition fined its local unit 2.4 million pounds ($3.9 million) for infringing consumers’ interests.

Tullow Oil Plc dropped 1.2 percent to 838 pence. The oil explorer based in London said a well on the Mantra prospect off the coast of Norway found reservoirs that contained water instead of oil. Tullow said it will plug and abandon the well.

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