European Stocks Little Changed as Man Group Gains

European stocks were little changed, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index closing at a six-year high, as data showed the U.S. economy contracted for the first time in 12 quarters while jobless claims declined last week.

Man Group Plc advanced 5 percent after saying it’s in talks to buy Boston-based money manager Numeric Holdings LLC. Tate & Lyle Plc climbed 4 percent after reporting full-year earnings. Kingfisher Plc dropped 4.9 percent after posting first-quarter profit that missed analysts’ estimates. Aggreko Plc fell 4.5 percent after naming a new chief executive officer.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added less than 0.1 percent to 344.51 at the close of trading in London, its highest level since January 2008. The benchmark gauge has gained 2 percent in May as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to ease monetary policy in June if necessary.

“We have lower volumes today because of some markets being closed, so we may see a bit more volatility,” Jacques Porta, who helps manage $780 million at Ofi Gestion Privee in Paris, said. “Some investors seem to be nervous about the valuation of the market. The market wants to stay long, not go down.”

Markets in Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are closed for the Ascension Day holiday. National benchmark indexes rose in three of the 10 western-European markets open today. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.3 percent. Germany’s DAX closed little changed and France’s CAC 40 slipped less than 0.1 percent.

The volume of shares traded on Stoxx 600 companies was 38 percent lower than the 30-day average at this time of the day, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Price Multiple

The Stoxx 600 advanced 8.5 percent from a Feb. 4 low through May 27, rising to its highest level since January 2008. It trades at 15.4 times the projected earnings of its members, up from a multiple of 13.8 at the beginning of the year. That compares with the five-year average of 12.4 times.

A report from the Commerce Department showed the U.S. economy shrank 1 percent in the first quarter, against a preliminary estimate of 0.1 percent annualized growth. Economist had predicted a contraction of 0.5 percent. Gross domestic product rose at a 2.6 percent in the previous period.

Separate data showed initial jobless claims in the world’s biggest economy fell to 300,000 in the week ended May 24, from a revised 327,000 in the previous week. The median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg survey called for 318,000.

A third release showed pending home sales in the U.S. advanced 0.4 percent in April, following a 3.4 percent gain in the previous month. The median projection of economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a 1 percent increase.

Acquisition Talks

Man Group climbed 5 percent to 99.55 pence. The world’s biggest publicly traded hedge-fund manager said it is in discussions to buy Numeric. The U.S. company trades equities based on signals derived from mathematical models and manages $13.9 billion, according to its website.

Tate & Lyle advanced 4 percent to 701.5 pence, reversing an earlier drop of as much as 1.5 percent. Full-year adjusted pretax profit fell to 322 million pounds ($538.3 million), missing the average analyst prediction of 326 million pounds. Analysts at Citigroup Inc. and Shore Capital Group Ltd. said the results were in line with their estimates.

UbiSoft Entertainment SA rose 7.2 percent to 14.80 euros after saying Watch Dogs, its video game set in Chicago about a hacker seeking justice, sold more copies in the first 24 hours of its release than any of the company’s previous titles. UbiSoft did not give a number.

Kingfisher, Aggreko

Kingfisher fell 4.9 percent to 397 pence after posting first-quarter retail profit of 142 million pounds, trailing the 152 million-pound average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Kingfisher also said its gross margin fell about 200 basis points in the U.K. and Ireland.

Aggreko declined 4.5 percent to 1,671 pence after appointing Centrica Plc’s Chris Weston as CEO. Aggreko’s top management will be inexperienced, with no executive having previously held the role of CEO or chief financial officer, RBC Capital analysts wrote in a note.

Electricite de France SA dropped 3.6 percent to 26.60 euros. Exane BNP Paribas downgraded the French utility to neutral from outperform, similar to buy, saying the company will find it difficult to pass on increasing costs to consumers.

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