European Stocks Trim Best Month Since 2009 as Shell Declines

Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

European stocks closed little changed, paring earlier losses, as German inflation data missed forecasts, while U.S. jobless claims fell to a 15-year low.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc slid 4.3 percent after reporting that fourth-quarter profit rose less than analysts predicted. Vallourec SA lost 3.8 percent after saying it will write down the value of assets by as much as 1.2 billion euros ($1.35 billion) as lower oil prices force some customers to cut spending. Deutsche Bank AG rose 2.6 percent after posting a surprise quarterly profit.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.1 percent to 368.76 at the close of trading, after earlier losing 0.8 percent and rising 0.2 percent. The gauge closed within 1 percent of a seven-year high on Wednesday, with Greek equities slumping on concern the new government will backtrack on austerity measures. The Stoxx 600 is up 7.7 percent this month as the European Central Bank announced unprecedented measures to stimulate the region’s economy. Contracts on the Euro Stoxx 50 Index expiring in March gained 1 percent at 5:05 p.m. in London.

“The mood is mixed,” said Tobias Britsch, who helps oversee about $27 billion at Meriten Investment Management GmbH, in Dusseldorf, Germany. “One the one side you have Draghi and the ECB which support markets with QE, on the other side you have the political uncertainty with Greece. And oil is the other story. I don’t think that oil will fall that much further, but it’s still too early to go into oil stocks”

Germany’s inflation rate turned negative in January for the first time in more than five years. Prices in Europe’s largest economy fell 0.5 percent from a year earlier, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists predicted a drop of 0.2 percent. The ECB last week committed to spend at least 1.1 trillion euros on government bonds and other assets to avert deflation in the euro area.

Stocks pared some losses after Labor Department data showed U.S. jobless claims plunged by 43,000 to 265,000 in the week ended Jan. 24, the lowest since April 2000. The median forecast called for 300,000.

Oil Companies

A gauge of oil and gas companies fell the most of the 19 industry groups on the European benchmark today. BP Plc, Total SA, Eni SpA and Statoil ASA retreated more than 1 percent.

Greece’s ASE Index rose 3.2 percent after a three-day loss as a gauge of lenders rebounded from a record low. National Bank of Greece SA, Alpha Bank AE and Eurobank Ergasias SA climbed more than 12 percent. Daniele Nouy, the head of the European Central Bank’s Supervisory Board, said the nation’s lenders can survive the current market turbulence.

The Swiss Market Index advanced 1.5 percent, for its fourth gain in five days, as the franc weakened and exporters including Nestle SA rose.

Among other shares moving on corporate news, Nokia Oyj fell 3.9 percent after saying that profitability will probably drop this quarter.

Diageo Plc climbed 3.1 percent after first-half profit rose more than projected.

Raiffeisen Bank International AG jumped 12 percent. Eastern Europe’s second-biggest bank said it will shrink by at least 20 percent to boost capital ratios.

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