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04.05.2012 18:06

European stocks close:

 

European stocks declined, extending their weekly drop, as a government report showed U.S. employers added fewer jobs than forecast in April.

U.S. payrolls climbed by 115,000 last month, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 increase in March that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today. The jobless rate fell to a three-year low of 8.1 percent as people left the labor force.

In Europe, four elections this weekend have the potential to reshape the region’s political map and show how the response to the financial crisis remains hostage to the whims of voters on both sides of the region’s economic divide.

Euro-region services and manufacturing output contracted more than initially estimated in April, adding to signs the economy is struggling to regain strength. A composite index based on a survey of purchasing managers in both industries dropped to 46.7 from 49.1 in March, London-based Markit Economics said today. That’s less than an estimate of 47.4 published on April 23. Readings below 50 indicates contraction.

U.K. house prices dropped the most in 1 1/2 years in April as a stamp-duty exemption for first-time buyers ended and the economy fell into its first double-dip recession since the 1970s, according to Halifax. Prices declined 2.4 percent from March, the mortgage unit of Lloyds Banking Group Plc said.

Hays slid 8.4 percent to 83.35 pence in London, the biggest drop since 2008, and Randstad lost 5.2 percent to 24.28 euros in Amsterdam. Michael Page International Plc retreated 5.4 percent to 385 pence.

Wacker Chemie tumbled 6.1 percent to 59.80 euros, the largest decline in two months. First-quarter net income dropped to 40 million euros from 168 million euros a year ago. The company said it sees its 2012 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization “markedly” below its 2011 level.

Taylor Wimpey, the U.K.’s second-largest homebuilder by volume, dropped 7.7 percent to 47.69 pence, the steepest fall since August. Barratt Developments Plc , the biggest, sank 7.5 percent to 124.3 pence.

BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, decreased 3.9 percent to 1,918 pence and Rio Tinto fell 4.4 percent to 3,214.5 pence as a gauge of basic-resources companies was the worst performer among the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600 today. Xstrata Plc slid 3.1 percent to 1,131.5 pence.

Belgacom SA, Belgium’s largest telephone company, advanced 1.3 percent to 21.76 euros after first-quarter profit of 199 million euros beat the average 194 million-euro analyst estimate.

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