European Stocks Are Little Changed as L’Oreal, Nokia Rise

European stocks were little changed as L’Oreal SA and Nokia Oyj rallied, offsetting worse-than-forecast reports on industrial production in France and Italy.

L’Oreal jumped the most since May 2010 as Nestle SA was said to explore ways to reduce its 29 percent stake in the biggest cosmetics maker. Nokia advanced 2.8 percent after HTC Corp. agreed to pay it royalties as part of a patent-row settlement. Securitas AB fell 1.5 percent after reporting quarterly profit that missed projections.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index gained less than 0.1 percent to 325.3 at the close in London. The benchmark climbed 0.8 percent last week, posting its first increase in three weeks, as investors bet the Federal Reserve will delay a third cut to bond purchases after U.S. jobs data missed estimates.

“We’re seeing a return to the status quo, with numbers out of France and Italy showing there’s still a euro zone divided into two speeds,” said John Plassard, vice president at Mirabaud Securities LLP in Geneva. “Without significant macroeconomic data out of the U.S. or any big company earnings, markets are set to be calm.”

Data showed December industrial production fell 0.3 percent in France and 0.9 percent in Italy, both missing estimates.

National Benchmarks

National benchmark indexes advanced in 10 of the 18 western European markets today. France’s CAC 40 added 0.2 percent and Germany’s DAX fell 0.1 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent.

L’Oreal gained 4.5 percent to 129 euros. Nestle has signaled to the L’Oreal management its intention to reduce its stake in the company, people with knowledge of the matter said. While talks have been on and off for some time, preparations have picked up close to April’s expiry of restrictions on Nestle’s stake imposed by a shareholder agreement with the Bettencourt family, the largest shareholder.

Nokia advanced 2.8 percent to 5.39 euros. The company agreed with HTC Corp. collaborate after ending a patent-infringement dispute. HTC will pay royalties to Nokia to end the row, the two partners said without disclosing financial terms.

Fresnillo Plc, a producer of gold and silver, jumped 8.8 percent to 862.5 pence for the biggest gain since July 2013. Gold rose for a fourth day in the longest rally since October, as Chinese buyers returned from a holiday. Separately, data from the China Gold Association showed consumption in world’s second-biggest economy surged 41 percent to a record in 2013. Randgold Resources Ltd. increased 2.4 percent to 4,530 pence.

Telekom Austria

Telekom Austria AG advanced 3.3 percent to 6.71 euros, its highest price since August 2012. Erste Group Bank AG raised the company part-owned by Carlos Slim’s America Movil SAB to hold from reduce, citing a potential for profit-margin expansion.

Catlin Group Ltd. rose 3.7 percent to 560 pence. The insurance underwriter said gross written premiums in 2013 increased to $5.31 billion from $4.97 billion a year earlier. The company also said it foresaw good opportunities in a tough market.

Securitas declined 1.5 percent to 67.15 kronor. The world’s second-biggest guarding-services provider posted fourth-quarter net income of 493.9 million kronor ($76 million), missing analysts’ average estimate that called for 528 million kronor.

Centrica Plc fell 1.7 percent to 308.9 pence. U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey asked regulators to look at whether the company’s British Gas unit was too profitable and should be broken up. Davey told BBC Radio 4 today that there could be a problem in the domestic gas-supply market, and one option in a full-scale market investigation could include breaking up some of the companies.

ArcelorMittal slid 3.2 percent to 12.10 euros after Bank of America Corp. cut the world’s biggest steelmaker to neutral from buy, citing “tepid European economic growth.”

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