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Most European stocks fell after German exports dropped and investors speculated recent gains have overshot the outlook for company profits as Alcoa Inc. prepared to kick off the U.S. earnings season.
German exports declined more than forecast in November. Exports adjusted for working days and seasonal changes fell 3.4 percent from October, the steepest drop in more than a year, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists had forecast a 0.5 percent decrease.
Still, economic confidence in the euro area increased more than economists expected in December even as the 17-nation currency bloc remained mired in its second recession in four years. An index of executive and consumer sentiment rose to 87 from 85.7 in November, the European Commission said. Economists had forecast a reading of 86.3.
National benchmark indexes declined in 10 of the 18 western European markets. Germany’s DAX Index slipped 0.5 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.2 percent. France’s CAC 40 was little changed.
Debenhams sank 7.7 percent to 108.1 pence, the biggest decline since March 2009. The U.K.’s second-largest department- store chain cut its forecast for full-year margin growth as it stepped up promotions to gain shoppers.
A gauge of automobile companies was the worst performer among 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600. Car sales in western Europe slid 16 percent in December, LMC Automotive said in a report yesterday.
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) lost 3.4 percent to 73.21 euros, while Daimler AG declined 1.3 percent to 42.50 euros. Renault SA slipped 2 percent to 39.67 euros.
Michael Page International Plc and Hays Plc slid 3.8 percent to 398.8 pence and 1.5 percent to 84.55 pence, respectively. The U.K. recruitment companies retreated as smaller rival Robert Walters Plc said the market is still challenging and there’s yet to be any indication the situation will improve this year. Robert Walters closed unchanged at 203 pence, erasing an earlier loss of as much as 5.9 percent.
Galp Energia SGPS SA declined 3.8 percent to 12.05 euros. The shares were downgraded to neutral from buy at Bank of America Corp., citing “potentially weak” fourth-quarter earnings and 2013 guidance.
Vodafone advanced 1.7 percent to 162.4 pence, the highest since Dec. 13. Verizon Communications Chief Executive Officer Lowell McAdam said his company has the strength to buy Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in the U.S.’s largest wireless carrier, the Journal reported late yesterday.
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