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17.03.2014 18:00

European stocks close

European stocks advanced, following their biggest weekly drop since January, as companies from RWE AG to Vodafone Group Plc rose amid renewed merger-and-acquisition activity.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 1.1 percent to 325.83 at the close of trading. The benchmark fell 3.3 percent last week as investors awaited Crimea’s March 16 referendum on whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

In Crimea, 96.8 percent of voters opted to secede from Ukraine in yesterday’s poll, according to the head of the election commission. The European Union issued a statement saying “the referendum is illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognized.”

EU foreign ministers agreed to impose travel bans on 21 Russians, Crimeans and former Ukrainian officials, following a meeting in Brussels today. The ministers also froze the group’s assets. The U.S. leveled sanctions on seven Russians, including aides or advisers to President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the 28-nation EU will discuss further measures when they meet later this week.

In the U.S., a gauge of manufacturing in the New York area rose less than forecast, climbing to 5.61 in March from 4.48 in February. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted a reading of 6.50. The Federal Reserve’s gauge of industrial production rose 0.6 percent in February, following a revised 0.2 percent decline in January. Economists had forecast output would climb 0.2 percent.

National benchmark indexes advanced in every western-European market except Iceland today. France’s CAC 40 added 1.3 percent and Germany’s DAX climbed 1.4 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 increased 0.6 percent.

RWE rose 1.3 percent to 28.84 euros after agreeing to sell its Dea oil-and-gas business to L1 Energy, the investment vehicle of Russia’s fourth-richest man Mikhail Fridman. Earlier this month, RWE posted its first full-year loss since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949.

Vodafone climbed 1.7 percent to 226 pence after saying it will spend 7.2 billion euros on Ono. The acquisition gives the telecommunications operator 1.9 million cable customers in Spain. It will generate about 2 billion euros of savings and 1 billion euros of revenue synergies, according to a statement.

Allianz added 2 percent to 122.90 euros. Europe’s biggest insurer agreed to spend 440 million euros buying assets from Unipol. They include a portfolio with 1.1 billion euros of premiums, 729 agencies and 500 employees.

Linde AG lost 2.6 percent to 139.90 euros after reporting profit that missed analysts’ estimates. The producer of industrial gases posted fourth-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 970 million euros, less than the average analyst estimate of 992.3 million euros in a Bloomberg survey.

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