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06.03.2012 19:08

European stocks close:

European stocks declined, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropping the most since November, as a report confirmed a contraction in the euro-area economy and investors weighed Greece’s chances of getting bondholders to accept a debt swap.

The euro area’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product declined 0.3 percent from the third quarter, the European Union’s statistics office said today, confirming an initial estimate published on Feb. 15.

The 12 members of the creditors’ steering committee that said they would join in the exchange of Greek debt have debt with a face value of at least 40 billion euros, compared with the 206 billion euros of bonds in private hands.

The goal of the swap, which runs until March 8, is to reduce by 53.5 percent the total of privately held Greek sovereign debt, helping the country avert an uncontrolled default.

National benchmark indexes fell in all of the 18 western European market except Greece. The Mediterranean country’s ASE Index rose 2.8 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 1.9 percent. France’s CAC 40 dropped 3.6 percent and Germany’s DAX slid 3.4 percent.

A gauge of banks accounted for the largest decline on the Stoxx 600, losing 4.2 percent. Commerzbank AG lost 6.7 percent to 1.77 euros. Societe Generale SA declined 7.8 percent to 23 euros.

Cable & Wireless Worldwide dropped 6.7 percent to 31.21 pence. Vodafone Group Plc may not make an offer for the company by a March 12 deadline, the Telegraph reported, citing market speculation.

A gauge of mining-company shares slid 2.6 percent as metal prices fell in London. Nyrstar lost 4.6 percent to 6.39 euros. Eramet SA, a refined nickel producer, tumbled 6.6 percent to 106.60 euros. Kazakhmys Plc, Kazakhstan’s biggest copper producer, retreated 2.9 percent to 924 pence.

Michael Page International Plc, a recruitment services company, tumbled 7.5 percent to 443 pence. The stock was cut to “neutral” (MPI) from “buy” at Citigroup Inc.

Q-Cells SE , a solar-cell maker, plunged 12 percent to 24.9 euro cents, its lowest on record, after losses exceeded sales in the fourth quarter and the company forecast further losses in 2012. Q-Cells posted a loss of 393 million euros in the last three months of 2011 on sales of 353 million euros in a preliminary report today.

National Bank of Greece SA climbed 7.8 percent to 2.49 euros and Alpha Bank SA jumped 19 percent to 1.55 euros.

06.03.2012 18:14

U.S. stocks retreated

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