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European stocks were little changed as France and Spain sold debt, while European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that economic recovery should begin later this year amid a continued accommodative policy.
The ECB left its benchmark rate at a record low of 0.75 percent following a meeting of policy makers in Frankfurt today. Draghi said the combined economy of the 17 nations that use the euro will begin to recover later this year because the absence of inflation risks will allow the ECB to leave interest rates at their record low.
In the U.K., Bank of England officials refrained from adding further stimulus to aid the economy and held its interest rate unchanged at 0.5 percent. The BOE panel led by the current governor, Mervyn King, left its target for bond purchases at 375 billion pounds ($588 billion). All 43 economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast no change.
France sold 7.98 billion euros ($11 billion) of government debt and Spain raised more than its maximum target at a bond auction. Yields climbed, compared with the most recent sales.
National benchmark indexes declined in 12 of the 18 western-European markets today. Germany’s DAX advanced 0.1 percent, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 fell 1.1 percent. France’s CAC 40 lost 1.2 percent, erasing its gain for the year.
Vodafone gained 0.9 percent to 171.9 pence after the world’s second-biggest mobile-phone operator repeated its forecast that adjusted operating profit for the year through March will be in the upper half of a range of 11.1 billion pounds to 11.9 billion pounds. Analysts had estimated 11.6 billion pounds.
Sanofi declined 4 percent to 66.60 euros after projecting that earnings per share may drop as much as 5 percent this year as generic competition to its Plavix blood thinner limits revenue in the U.S. Analysts had predicted that earnings would slip 0.2 percent.
Alcatel-Lucent SA climbed 4.9 percent to 1.23 euros after its chief executive officer announced he will leave. The stock earlier rallied as much as 11 percent, as Chief Executive Officer Ben Verwaayen stepped down after his 4 1/2-year-long attempt to turn around the phone-equipment maker failed. The company reported a fourth-quarter net loss of 1.37 billion euros and as it booked a one-off impairment charge of 1.4 billion euros. Verwaayen will remain in place until the board finds a replacement.
Daimler AG gained 2.8 percent to 44.21 euros after the world’s third-biggest maker of luxury vehicles forecast that group revenue and deliveries of Mercedes-Benz cars will increase in 2013.
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