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European stocks fell to their lowest level in five weeks, extending their second weekly loss, as investors awaited a referendum that may lead to Crimea’s secession from Ukraine.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 0.8 percent to 322.03 at 4:33 p.m. in London, its lowest level since Feb. 6. The benchmark gauge has fallen 3.3 percent this week as Russia and Ukraine continued their standoff over Crimea, and China reported worse-than-expected economic data.
“Markets are nervous because we’ve got two catalysts,” Andreas Lipkow, a senior market strategist at Kliegel & Hafner AG in Berlin, said by telephone. “First, we have the Crimean crisis and people are going to be watching the referendum. Second, there are now signs China’s recovery will be more difficult than previously thought. It’s hard to figure out what will happen next, so investors are in a risk-off mode and have become defensive.”
National benchmark indexes fell in 16 of the 18 western European markets today.
FTSE 100 6,527.89 -25.89 -0.40% CAC 40 4,216.37 -34.14 -0.80% DAX 9,056.41 +38.62 +0.43%
Bouygues dropped 3.1 percent to 30.45 euros. French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg told Europe1 radio station that Vivendi, weighing competing offers for SFR, prefers a bid from billionaire Patrick Drahi’s cable holding Altice SA to Bouygues’s offer. Altice jumped 7.4 percent to 30 euros and its Numericable Group SA unit soared 12 percent to 29.50 euros.
Pandora, the Danish maker of charm bracelets, fell 2.9 percent to 348.80 kroner. Funds managed by Danish private-equity firm Axcel, Pewic Holding ApS and Christian Algot Enevoldsen offered 13 million shares in the transaction, according to a statement from JPMorgan, which is managing the sale along with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Nordea Bank AB. Pandora shares have more than doubled over the past year.
HeidelbergCement AG declined for a third day, dropping 1.9 percent to 59.52 euros. Berenberg Bank cut its rating on construction stocks including the German cement maker to hold from buy, meaning it no longer recommends acquiring the shares. Berenberg cited stock price increases for the downgrade.
Monte dei Paschi added 2 percent to 23.2 euro cents. JC Flowers, a U.S. private-equity firm, is interested in taking a stake in Italy’s third-biggest bank as a long-term investor, Il Messaggero newspaper reported, without citing anyone.
Fresenius SE gained 3.5 percent to 108.65 euros. The health-care company said it will propose a stock split at a May 16 annual general meeting, tripling the number of shares. Holders will get two new shares for every one owned.
Fresenius Medical Care AG advanced 1.5 percent to 48.20 euros. Redburn Partners LLP recommended buying the stock, raising its rating from neutral.
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