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11.03.2013 18:00

European stock close:

European stocks fell from a 4 1/2- year high as Fitch Ratings downgraded Italy and China’s retail sales and industrial output missed forecasts.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped 0.1 percent to 295.26 at 4:33 p.m. in London. The gauge has still surged 5.6 percent this year as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget and optimism grew that central banks around the world will continue stimulus measures to support the economic recovery.

National benchmark indexes fell in 11 of the 18 western European markets.

FTSE 100 6,503.63 +20.05 +0.31% CAC 40 3,836.27 -3.88 -0.10% DAX 7,984.29 -2.18 -0.03%

Fitch cut Italy’s credit rating by one level after the close of equity markets on March 8, as last month’s election produced political paralysis that threatens the country’s ability to respond to a recession and the European debt crisis. The rating company lowered Italy’s government bond rating to BBB+ from A- with a negative outlook. That’s three levels above junk and one higher than Spain.

Storebrand (STB) slid 1.78 kroner to 25.23 kroner as stricter pension rules will require the insurer to set aside as much as 11.5 billion kroner ($2 billion). Life insurance providers in Norway must boost premiums and reserves to meet an increase in life expectancy, the Financial Supervisory Authority said on March 8.

OMV, central Europe’s biggest oil company, declined 1.7 percent to 34.50 euros in Vienna as SocGen downgraded the stock to hold from buy.

Sage Group Plc slipped 2.5 percent to 340.8 pence as Bank of America Corp. downgraded the shares to underperform, the equivalent of a sell rating, from neutral and added the software maker to its least preferred technology stocks.

Atlantia SpA (ATL) fell 3.7 percent to 12.27 euros and Gemina SpA tumbled 6.4 percent to 1.29 euros. Italy’s largest toll-highway operator will pay one share for every nine shares of Gemina, which runs Rome’s airports, in a takeover deal that involves no cash, according to a statement released after the close of trading on March 8.

Ladbrokes surged 6.7 percent to 240.2 pence, the biggest jump since April 2011, after the U.K. operator of more than 2,000 betting shops said Playtech will help develop and expand its digital business. Playtech rose 3.5 percent to 571 pence.

Nordex SE soared 15 percent to 4.44 euros, it’s biggest rally in almost two years. The German wind-turbine maker reported earnings before interest and taxes of 14 million euros ($18.2 million), compared with the 10.5 million-euro average analyst estimate.


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