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Most European stocks fell amid concern U.S. lawmakers won’t reach a budget deal in time to prevent automatic tax increases and spending cuts from coming into effect tomorrow. U.S. index futures signaled a lower opening for equities and Asian shares were little changed.
Nine of the 18 western European markets including Germany and Switzerland were closed. The U.K. market will close at 12:30 p.m., while France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands will close by about 1 p.m.
The U.S. Senate will convene at 11 a.m. Washington time today to discuss measures to avert more than $600 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts, also called the fiscal cliff.
Private talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that began Dec. 28 stalled yesterday because of disputes over income tax rates, the estate tax and other issues.
In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the economic environment will be more difficult in 2013 compared with this year.
China’s manufacturing unexpectedly expanded at the fastest pace in 19 months, a report showed today. The final reading of a Purchasing Managers’ Index was 51.5 in December, according to a statement from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics. That compares with the 50.9 preliminary reading on Dec. 14 and a final 50.5 in November. A level above 50 indicates expansion.
Iberdrola retreated 1.1 percent to 4.09 euros after Bolivian President Evo Morales ordered the nationalization of four of its business units. The country’s army and police seized buildings occupied by the company.
Bankia advanced 5 percent to 42.4 euro cents for the biggest gain on the Stoxx 600. The lender plunged 41 percent in the two days through Dec. 28, reaching its lowest price ever, after Spain said Bankia has a negative value of 4.15 billion euros ($5.5 billion).
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