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20.03.2014 18:00

European stocks close

Most European stocks declined as investors weighed Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s remark that benchmark interest rates could rise about six months after the central bank ends bond purchases.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added less than 0.1 percent to 327.67 at the close of trading, as two shares fell for every one that rose. The benchmark gauge has dropped 0.2 percent in 2014, after two years of gains, as the Fed began trimming its asset buying by $10 billion a month and a conflict in Ukraine led to tensions between Russia and the U.S.

Yellen, speaking after chairing a Federal Open Market Committee meeting for the first time, said policy makers have stopped linking the interest-rate policy to an employment threshold. Even so, pressed to define how long rates will remain low after quantitative easing ends, she said the term would be “on the order of around six months.”

Quarterly Fed forecasts also showed more officials predicting that the benchmark rate, now close to zero, will rise to at least 1 percent at the end of 2015 and 2.25 percent a year later. The central bank said it would trim its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion to $55 billion.

National benchmark indexes dropped in 11 of the 18 markets in western Europe. Germany’s DAX gained 0.2 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 slid 0.5 percent and France’s CAC 40 added 0.5 percent.

Glaxo dropped 1.6 percent to 1,629 pence. The drugmaker said its MAGE-A3 treatment failed to meet its objectives in a clinical trial. The medicine didn’t significantly extend disease-free survival in tests compared with a placebo.

Intu Properties Plc fell 4.6 percent to 308.3 pence. The U.K.’s largest shopping-mall owner has agreed to buy three retail centers from Westfield Group for 867.8 million pounds ($1.4 billion) including working capital.

Munich Re advanced 1.4 percent to 152.34 euros after saying it will buy back shares worth 1 billion euros before its 2015 shareholder meeting. The world’s biggest reinsurer also projected a 9.1 percent drop in 2014 profit.

Next Plc rose 2.3 percent to 6,730 pence. The U.K.’s second-largest clothing retailer said underlying pretax profit rose 12 percent to 695.2 million pounds in the year through January, more than the 694 million-pound average of analysts’ estimates.

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