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Asian stocks fell ahead of a debt sale today by France after Standard & Poor’s stripped the country of its top credit rating and cut eight other European nations on concern the region hasn’t done enough to contain its debt crisis.
Financial companies contributed the most to the decline in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan’s biggest lender, fell 2.7 percent to 325 yen. HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest lender, lost 0.7 percent to HK$59.75. Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., an operator of retail chains and ports that gets 53 percent of its revenue in Europe, slid 1.5 percent to HK$67.20.
European stocks advanced to a five- month high, snapping three days of losses, as France auctioned debt at a lower borrowing cost even after Standard & Poor’s stripped the country of its top credit rating. French borrowing costs fell at a sale of 51-week treasury bills in the first sale since the nation’s credit downgrade. France sold 1.895 billion euros ($2.4 billion) of one-year notes at a yield of 0.406 percent, down from 0.454 percent on Jan. 9. The Treasury sold a total of 8.59 billion euros in bills, including three and six-month paper.
National benchmark indexes rose in every west-European market except Portugal and Spain.
Fiat led a gauge of carmakers to the biggest gain on the Stoxx 600 today as Goldman Sachs reiterated its “attractive” view on the industry. Fiat surged 7 percent to 4.16 euros, Fiat Industrial SpA increased 3.9 percent to 7.41 euros and Pirelli & C. SpA climbed 4.9 percent to 6.92 euros as analysts recommended all three companies’ shares and added Pirelli to their “conviction buy” list.
Daimler was also added to Goldman’s “conviction buy” list, while Renault SA was upgraded to “neutral” from “sell.” The carmakers climbed 3.6 percent to 39.35 euros and 2.9 percent to 30.87 euros, respectively.
Carnival tumbled 16 percent to 1,878 pence, the biggest drop since the shares started trading in London in 2000, after its cruise liner capsized off the Italian coast on Jan. 13, injuring about 60 people. Morgan Stanley lowered its recommendation for the shares to “equal weight” from “overweight.”
Lundin Petroleum AB sank 14 percent to 152.10 kronor after the company said it will probably reduce its estimates for the recoverable resources at the Avaldsnes discovery.
U.S. stocks are closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day
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