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European stocks were little changed, paring earlier losses, as better-than-estimated U.S. economic data outweighed a delay in the bailout of Greece.
Europe’s creditor countries struggled to reach an agreement over a rescue of Greece, seeking more control over how future aid is spent as the country faces the threat of default over a bond payment due on March 20. Policy makers will discuss a second bailout on Feb. 20.
Moody’s said it is reviewing the credit ratings of 17 banks and securities firms with capital-markets operations, which may result in downgrades. The announcement comes days after the company cut the ratings of six European nations including Spain and lowered its outlook on France.
Spain and France today sold 14.2 billion euros ($18.5 billion) in their first auctions since the euro-area downgrades by Moody’s, getting more demand than the amount they offered. The yield on France’s benchmark two-year notes fell, while Spanish borrowing costs rose.
National benchmark indexes declined in 9 of the 18 western European markets today. France’s CAC 40 gained 0.1 percent, while Germany’s DAX lost 0.1 percent each. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.1 percent. Spain’s IBEX 35 Index fell 2.1 percent.
Spain’s stock-market regulator lifted a six-month ban on short-selling of financial stocks. Banco Santander SA lost 2.6 percent to 6.29 euros, while Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA slid 4.1 percent to 6.80 euros. Bankia SA tumbled 7.3 percent to 3.09 euros.
ABB fell 3.6 percent to 19.20 Swiss francs. The world’s largest maker of power-distribution equipment reported less- than-expected profit in the fourth quarter and said price pressure may weigh in on profitability in the first quarter.
Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, climbed 2.1 percent to 55.60 francs after posting 2011 sales growth that beat analyst estimates and forecast higher 2012 earnings as it introduces new products.
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