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03.04.2014 17:20

European stocks close

Stocks in Europe were little changed, after climbing for seven days, as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said policy makers are prepared to add further measures to support the euro-area economy if necessary.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.1 percent to 337.25 at the close of trading. The equity benchmark has gained 4 percent since March 24 as improving U.S. data signaled the world’s largest economy is recovering from the harsh winter.

The ECB left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low 0.25 percent, matching all but three of 57 economists’ projections compiled by Bloomberg. Central bank officials held the deposit rate at zero and the ">Draghi said that the central bank discussed the possibility of using quantitative easing among a range of measures at today’s monthly meeting. “The Governing Council is unanimous in its commitment to using also unconventional instruments within its mandate in order to cope effectively with risks of a too prolonged period of low inflation,” he said.

U.S. data showed service industries expanded at a faster pace last month. The Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing index rose to 53.1 in March from 51.6 in February. The median economist projection was for a reading of 53.5. Numbers greater than 50 signal expansion in industries that make up almost 90 percent of the world’s largest economy.

National benchmark indexes rose in nine of 18 western-European markets today. France’s CAC 40 gained 0.4 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 0.2 percent, and Germany’s DAX added 0.1 percent. Markets in Italy and Spain closed at their highest levels since May 2011.

BTG added 1 percent to 546.5 pence. The British biotechnology company, which won U.S. regulatory clearance for its varicose-vein treatment in November, said sales for the year ended March 31 probably neared the top end of its 275 million pound ($456 million) to 285 million-pound projection. BTG will report its annual results on May 20.

Nokian Renkaat dropped 2.7 percent to 29.86 euros. The Finnish tiremaker said net sales and operating profit will probably drop this year because of the weaker outlook for Russia’s economy and the declining ruble. The company had predicted revenue and earnings growth on Feb. 7. Russia and its neighboring countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States accounted for 34 percent of the company’s sales last year.

Rexel SA declined 2.3 percent to 18.95 euros. Ray Investment SARL, Rexel’s second-largest publicly disclosed investor, said it sold 26.9 million shares in the wire and cable distributor at 18.85 euros apiece.

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