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18.10.2011 17:38

European stocks close

European stocks fell as concern that France may lose its top credit rating added pressure on the region’s leaders to find a solution to the debt crisis and as China’s economy grew at the slowest pace in two years. While Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers are pressing European Union leaders to set out a strategy by the end of the week, divisions are flaring over an emerging plan to avoid a Greek default, bolster banks and curb contagion. China’s economy grew 9.1 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace since 2009.

National benchmark indexes retreated in 7 of the 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.4 percent and France’s CAC 40 fell 0.7 percent, while Germany’s DAX advanced 0.5 percent.

BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, lost 1 percent to 1,891.5 pence, while Rio Tinto, the second-largest, sank 4.2 percent to 3,162 pence. Copper slumped for a second day in London amid concern demand from China may slow as the economy cools. Lead, tin and zinc also fell.

Xstrata Plc retreated 1.3 percent to 936.3 pence even after the largest exporter of power-station coal said total third- quarter production of the fuel rose 8.1 percent. Copper output fell 4 percent, the company said.

BNP Paribas, France’s biggest bank, declined 4.4 percent to 29.69 euros. Societe Generale sank 5.2 percent to 19.19 euros.

France’s Aaa credit rating is under pressure from deterioration in debt metrics and the potential for additional liabilities from Europe’s debt crisis, according to Moody’s. The nation’s financial strength has weakened because of the global economic crisis, making the nation’s debt measures the weakest among its Aaa-rated peers, the New York-based company said in a statement late yesterday that it called a markets update.

Air France-KLM Group slid 2.6 percent to 5.46 euros after the airline ousted Pierre-Henri Gourgeon as chief executive officer amid slumping earnings and questions regarding the role of pilots in a fatal crash.

Aixtron SE, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, sank 5.3 percent to 9.99 euros. The company’s third-quarter results are likely to be “disastrous,” CA Cheuvreux analyst Klaus Ringel wrote in a report.

Danone, the owner of the Evian and Volvic bottled-water brands, rose 2.4 percent to 46.48 euros as three people familiar with the matter said the company is in talks to sell water assets to Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd. Danone also reported third-quarter revenue that beat estimates as it sold more baby food and medical nutrition products in China and Indonesia.

Continental AG added 4.4 percent to 53.08 euros, paring yesterday’s declines. The world’s fourth-largest tiremaker said Schaeffler Beteiligungsholding GmbH & Co.’s voting rights rose to 36.14 percent on Sept 30.

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