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European stocks retreated, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index paring an earlier tumble, after the euro area forced Cyprus to adopt a levy on bank deposits, prompting concern that the region’s debt crisis will reignite.
While Cyprus accounts for less than half a percent of the 17-nation euro area’s economy, the raid on bank accounts risks a resumption of the financial crisis that began in 2009 in Greece. Moody’s Investors Service said that the move limits support for bank creditors across Europe and shows that policy makers will risk disrupting financial markets to avoid sovereign defaults.
The levy enabled the euro area to lower its bailout of Cyprus to 10 billion euros ($13 billion) from an original figure of about 17 billion euros. President Nicos Anastasiades will try to persuade lawmakers to back the plan. Parliament postponed a vote due to take place this afternoon. Cyprus will leave its banks closed until March 21, a government official said, declining to be identified.
National benchmark indexes fell in every western-European market that opened today except Ireland and Iceland. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 and France’s CAC 40 lost 0.5 percent, while Germany’s DAX declined 0.4 percent. Luxembourg’s LuxX Index dropped 2.2 percent today, its biggest slide in seven months.
A gauge of bank shares sank 1.5 percent for the worst performance on the Stoxx 600. UniCredit lost 3.6 percent to 3.69 euros, while Societe Generale SA, France’s second-largest lender, slid 3.3 percent to 28.98 euros. Banco Santander SA, Spain’s biggest bank, dropped 2.3 percent to 5.83 euros.
Ericsson lost 2.2 percent to 83.50 kronor after agreeing to wind down the ST-Ericsson joint venture and divide the assets. The electronics companies failed to find a buyer for the business. STMicroelectronics will incur cash costs of $350 million to $450 million, lower than the charges it had estimated in January. The shares climbed 5.4 percent to 6.17 euros.
Marks & Spencer Group Plc surged 6.9 percent to 398.1 pence, its biggest gain in almost four years. The shares earlier rallied as much as 9.4 percent after the Sunday Times reported that Qatar Investment Authority has considered an 8 billion- pound ($12 billion) bid for the U.K.’s largest clothing retailer. The newspaper cited unidentified people working in the City of London. A person close to the sovereign-wealth fund said today that QIA has not considered making an offer.
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