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European shares rose for the first week in four as better-than-expected company earnings and measures of German confidence outweighed concern that the U.S. Federal Reserve will scale back its asset-purchase program.
In Germany, investor confidence increased to the highest level in almost three years in February. The index of investor and analyst expectations climbed to 48.2 from 31.5 in January, the ZEW Center for European Economic Research said this week. That exceeded the median estimate of economists in a survey calling for an increase to 35.
Separately, the Ifo institute’s business climate index for Europe’s biggest economy, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, climbed to 107.4 in February from a revised 104.3 in January. The median of 38 forecasts in a survey had called for an increase to 104.9. The latest reading was the highest since April.
Still, the euro-area economy will shrink for a second year in 2013, driving unemployment higher as governments, consumers and companies curb spending, the European Commission said.
National benchmark indexes climbed in 10 of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 increased 0.1 percent and France’s CAC 40 added 1.3 percent. Germany’s DAX gained 0.9 percent.
Lafarge advanced 7.7 percent. The world’s biggest cement maker said it’ll meet most of a cost-cutting goal one year early after fourth-quarter earnings beat analysts’ estimates on rising sales in Asia and Latin America. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose to 856 million euros from 798 million euros a year earlier, the Paris-based company said. Analysts had expected 821.6 million euros.
Natixis rallied 18 percent. The investment-bank unit of France’s second-largest lender by branches said it will make a payment to shareholders after selling back stakes in its parent’s banking networks. The distribution amounts to 65 cents a share, and comes on top of a proposed dividend of 10 cents a share for 2012.
Royal KPN NV plunged 13 percent for the second-worst performance on the Stoxx 600 this week. America Movil SAB, the mobile-phone carrier controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, will take part in a 3 billion-euro KPN share sale, while declining to participate in a 1 billion-euro sale of so-called hybrid instruments.
RSA Insurance Group Plc tumbled 11 percent after announcing a dividend cut. The U.K.’s biggest non-life insurer by market value lowered its payout by 33 percent as its 2012 underwriting profit was eroded by claims related to wet weather in the U.K. and earthquakes in Italy.
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