German Stocks Little Changed as Investors Weigh U.S. Data

German stocks were little changed, after their largest two-day gain in eight months, as investors weighed U.S. data on economic growth, jobless-benefit claims and home sales.

SMA Solar Technology AG slipped 5.5 percent after posting a wider-than-projected loss for 2013. Salzgitter AG retreated 1.2 percent after Credit Suisse Group AG downgraded its rating on the steelmaker. United Internet AG rose the most since April 2012 after predicting profit will increase about 28 percent this year. Wacker Chemie AG added 2.4 percent as Deutsche Bank AG upgraded its rating on the chemical maker.

The DAX Index advanced less than 0.1 percent to 9,451.21 at the close of trading in Frankfurt, paring its monthly loss to 2.5 percent. World equities have regained about $3.1 trillion since a low on Feb. 4 as concern dissipated that Russian President Vladimir Putin will seek to annex parts of eastern Ukraine. Stocks have gained about $100 billion globally so far this year. The broader HDAX Index retreated 0.1 percent today.

“Expectations for economic growth are very high at the moment,” Alessandro Bee, a strategist at Bank J Safra Sarasin AG, said by phone from Zurich. “We think this good mood will weaken in the coming months and the economy may not be able to fulfil the wish of investors. We’re slightly cautious on the market. It’s a sign of overconfidence when everybody rushes in as soon as there is a dip.”

The equity benchmark has fallen 1.1 percent so far this year, its first quarterly retreat since the three months through June 2012. The volume of shares changing hands in DAX-listed companies was 22 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days at this time of the day, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

U.S. Data

The U.S. economy expanded more rapidly in the fourth quarter than previously estimated, figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington. Gross domestic product grew at a 2.6 percent annualized rate from October through December, more than the 2.4 percent gain reported last month. That still missed the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg calling for a 2.7 percent increase.

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly declined last week, Labor Department data showed today. Jobless claims decreased to 311,000 in the period ended March 22 from a revised 321,000 the previous period. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 323,000 claims.

Separate data showed pending sales of existing homes in the U.S. dropped 0.8 percent in February, following a revised 0.2 percent decline in the prior month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted a gain of 0.2 percent.

SMA Solar

SMA Solar slipped 5.5 percent to 42.81 euros, paring gains in the company’s best quarter since its June 2008 initial public offering to 86 percent. The maker of alternating-current converters posted a net loss for 2013 of 67 million euros ($92 million), more than the 62.4 million-euro loss projected by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Salzgitter lost 1.2 percent to 28.10 euros. Credit Suisse cut the steelmaker to neutral from outperform, citing risks that a pipeline designed to deliver gas to Europe from Russia through the Black Sea will not go ahead as planned. Salzgitter’s Europipe GmbH signed a contract with South Stream Transport BV on Jan. 29 to make more than 600 kilometers (373 miles) of steel pipes for the project.

Separately, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported today that Salzgitter wasn’t awarded the contract for the second part of the pipeline. The job was given to Russian and Japanese companies, according to the newspaper, which didn’t say where it got the information. Salzgitter spokesman Bernhard Kleinermann declined to comment to Bloomberg.

Air Berlin

Air Berlin Plc dropped 1.5 percent to 2.02 euros. The carrier delayed its annual earnings conference scheduled for today, saying it will report before the end of April as it works on an unspecified overhaul. It had originally planned the event for March 20, only to push back the meeting by seven days. It didn’t give details on talks with shareholders in a statement late yesterday, saying only the aim is to improve its capital and liquidity position.

Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank AG, Germany’s largest lenders, fell 0.8 percent to 31.89 euros, and 1 percent to 12.94 euros, respectively. A gauge of European banks was among the worst performers of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Hamburger Hafen & Logistik AG slid 7.1 percent to 18.17 euros. The handler of about three in four containers at Hamburg’s port dropped the most since July 2012 after saying that sanctions against Russia as a result of the Ukraine crisis may cause earnings to fall this year.

HHLA, which also runs a container terminal in the Ukrainian port of Odessa, forecast earnings before interest and taxes this year will be 138 million euros to 158 million euros. That compared with the 162 million-euro average estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

United Internet rose 5 percent to 33.79 euros. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will probably increase to 520 million euros in 2014, after jumping 25 percent last year to 407 million euros, the online-access and domain provider said.

Wacker Chemie added 2.4 percent to 89 euros. Deutsche Bank raised its rating to hold from sell after profitability for the company’s polysilicon unit exceeded estimates. Ebitda at the unit was 25.3 percent of sales in the final three months of 2013, wider than the 18 percent predicted by Deutsche Bank.

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