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06.05.2013 17:20

European stock close:

European stocks were little changed near a five-year high as services and manufacturing output shrank for a 15th month while European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said policy makers are ready to cut interest rates if needed.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped less than 0.1 percent to 300.97 at the close of trading, having earlier fallen 0.2 percent. Volume was 67 percent less than the 30-day average as markets in the U.K., Ireland and Greece were closed for holidays.

Euro-area services and factory output shrank for a 15th straight month in April. A composite index based on a survey of purchasing managers in both industries rose to 46.9 from 46.5 in March, London-based Markit Economics said today in a final reading. Figures below 50 signal a contraction.

Retail sales in the region fell 0.1 percent in March after a revised 0.2 percent drop in February, the European Union's statistics office in Luxembourg said in a separate report.

Stocks pared losses as Draghi said ECB policy makers are ready to cut interest rates again if needed after reducing them to a record low last week.

"We will be looking at all the data that arrives from the euro-area economy in the coming weeks and if necessary, we are ready to act again," Draghi said in a speech in Rome today. "Monetary policy will remain accommodative."

National benchmark indexes climbed in eight of the 15 western European markets open today.

FTSE 100 6,521.46 +60.75 +0.94% CAC 40 3,907.04 -5.91 -0.15% DAX 8,112.08 -10.21 -0.13%

Air France-KLM Group fell 4.3 percent to 7.31 euros for the biggest decline in the Stoxx 600. Europe's largest airline sank 4.5 percent on May 3 after reporting a loss.

Rheinmetall AG, the maker of armored military vehicles, slipped 1.5 percent to 37 euros in Frankfurt after Bankhaus Metzler downgraded the shares to sell from buy.

Linde rose 2.8 percent to 146.75 euros, the largest gain since Sept. 6. Operating profit climbed 13 percent to 953 million euros ($1.3 billion) in the first quarter as recently- acquired Lincare Holdings Inc. doubled sales of gases in North America, the German company said. That beat the 935 million-euro average prediction in survey of analysts.

Celesio jumped 7.1 percent to 16.33 euros, the biggest advance since August 2011. Haniel, the Duisburg, Germany-based investment company, isn't selling part of its 50 percent holding in the German drug wholesaler, spokesman Dietmar Borchert said today. Platow Brief had earlier reported a possible sale to CVS Caremark Corp.

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