Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

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Here are Tuesday’s top stories for Europe.

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There have been a handful of green shoots in the euro-area economy, but today they burst into full-fledged growth. A closely watched indicator of economic activity — the composite purchasing managers index for manufacturing and services — rose in February to its highest level in nearly six years. Economists had predicted it would slip. What’s more, long-struggling France outperformed Germany for the first time since 2012, potentially a sign of broader growth in the 19-country bloc. Inflows of new orders and surging optimism point to a potentially stronger expansion in the coming months, says London-based researcher IHS Markit.— Andy Reinhardt

HSBC dropped the most in 18 months in London trading after reporting fourth-quarter profit that missed estimates on a surprise drop in revenue. The bank warned of another fall again later this year. Europe’s largest bank blamed slowing growth in its core markets of Hong Kong and the U.K for a $3.4 billion pretax quarterly loss. Adjusted profit fell $1.2 billion short of analyst estimates. That doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom at the bank, though. CEO Stuart Gulliver’s total potential pay for 2016 will rise to $12 million because he hit targets for cutting costs.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven dismissed the idea that his Nordic nation is in a state of chaos and overrun by crime after an influx of refugees. Responding to remarks made by U.S. President Donald Trump, Lofven told reporters on Monday: “I was, like many others, surprised by the comments made about Sweden this weekend. We must all take responsibility for using facts correctly and verifying any information that we spread.” In an extraordinary case of bad timing, though, a riot broke out Monday night in a predominantly immigrant suburb in Stockholm after officers arrested a suspect on drug charges.

Francois Fillon, France's presidential candidate, speaks during an election campaign meeting in Paris, France, on Sunday, Jan 29, 2017. Fillon repeats pledge to end his run if he is formally investigated, in interview with Journal du Dimanche. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

Francois Fillon, France's presidential candidate, speaks during an election campaign meeting in Paris. Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

French Republican candidate Francois Fillon abandoned a key plank of his plan to cut health spending. He made his move as contenders across the board searched for traction in the most open presidential election in living memory. He had previously promised a harsh package of economic reforms to jolt France into life, including a limit on state health coverage. Meanwhile, on a three-day trip to Lebanon, rival Marine Le Pen followed through on her pledge not to wear a headscarf to meet a top Islamic leader.

Miners are roaring back after their crisis last year. BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, reported that first-half profit jumped to $3.24 billion. That’s because increased demand from China has driven commodity prices higher. A year earlier that figure was just $412 million in the same period, a time when miners’ earnings cratered amid a collapse in prices. Rival Anglo American canceled plans to divest some assets after its earnings doubled last year on cost cuts and rising metal prices.

Will giant batteries someday revolutionize electrical grids? That’s an idea that’s long enthralled environmentalists and advocates of clean power. Now it’s attracting bankers with the money to make it happen. From California to Germany, lenders are looking to finance large-scale energy-storage projects that manage the unpredictable output from wind and solar farms and retain electricity until it’s needed.

We know Donald Trump isn’t a fan of trade deficits, which he sees as the U.S. getting the short end of the stick in trade deals. But not all deficits are created equal. See which countries have the most lopsided trade relations with the U.S.

Which ones really matter?

 

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