European Markets Finished Mostly Lower As Rally Stalls
BRUSSELS/FRANKFURT/PARIS (dpa-AFX) - The majority of the European markets ended Thursday's session with modest losses.
Profit taking played a role in the pullback, after the markets enjoyed seven straight sessions of gains. Bank stocks turned lower following yesterday's rally and mining stocks weakened along with metal prices.
European Central Bank policymakers broadly agreed to look through the energy-driven recent upturns in headline inflation and sought patience as they judged that the euro area economy required a substantial monetary stimulus to bring price growth to target, the minutes of the bank's policy session held on January 18-19 showed Thursday.
The Governing Council must carefully monitor potential indirect and second-round effects of the recent inflation spike, the minutes, which the ECB calls "account" of the meeting said.
Delaying the agreement on the bailout for Greece will carry costs for all, and not just for Athens, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said Thursday.
Lenders are forced to choose between working hard to solve the stand-off or to return to uncertainty that is dangerous, Dombrovskis said in an interview to the Greek news portal euro2day.gr.
"The choice is obvious," the top EU official said.
The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index weakened by 0.43 percent. The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks decreased 0.38 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, lost 0.58 percent.
The DAX of Germany dropped 0.31 percent and the CAC 40 of France fell 0.52 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. declined 0.34 percent and the SMI of Switzerland finished lower by 0.22 percent.
In Frankfurt, Deutsche Boerse rose 0.85 percent. The stock exchange operator proposed to increase its dividend for 2016 after reporting strong increases in annual earnings and profits.
In Paris, Air France-KLM soared 12.60 percent. The airline promised further cost-cutting efforts this year after posting better-than-expected earnings for 2016 on the back of a sharp drop in fuel costs. Rival Lufthansa advanced 2.22 percent in Frankfurt and International Consolidates Airlines Group added 0.40 percent in London.
Energy management firm Schneider Electric tumbled 4.17 percent after its fiscal 2016 revenue decreased 7.3 percent to 24.69 billion euros.
Cap Gemini gained 3.05 percent after announcing the acquisition of TCube Solutions, Inc., an Insurance IT services firm in the U.S.
In London, Cobham plunged 15.29 percent after the beleaguered aerospace group issued its fifth profit warning in less than two years, saying it now expects full-year 2016 Group underlying trading profit to be 225 million pounds, down from its prior outlook of 245 million pounds.
Drax Group dropped 5.15 percent. The company reported full year earnings per share of 47 pence compared to 14 pence last year.
Food giant Nestlé fell 0.96 percent in Zurich after its fiscal 2016 profit declined to 8.53 billion Swiss francs from last year's 9.07 billion francs, mainly due to the impact of a one-off non-cash adjustment to deferred taxes.
Germany's employment grew at the weakest pace in three years during the fourth quarter of 2016, figures from Destatis showed Thursday. The number of employed rose by 0.6 percent year-on-year after 0.8 percent growth in the third quarter. The pace slowed for a third consecutive quarter.
The latest growth was the weakest since the fourth quarter of 2013, when employment rose 0.5 percent.
France's unemployment rate eased less-than-expected in the final three months of 2016, preliminary figures from the statistical office INSEE showed Thursday. The ILO jobless rate dropped to 10 percent from a revised 10.1 percent in the third quarter. Economists had forecast 9.8 percent.
A report released by the Labor Department on Thursday showed a slight increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended February 11th. The report said initial jobless claims edged up to 239,000, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 234,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to climb to 245,000.
New residential construction in the U.S. pulled back in the month of January, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday. The Commerce Department said housing starts fell by 2.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.246 million in January after jumping by 11.3 percent to a revised 1.279 million in December.
Economists had expected housing starts to rise to 1.232 million from the 1.226 million originally reported for the previous month.
A reading on Philadelphia-area manufacturing activity unexpectedly showed a substantial acceleration in the pace of growth in the month of February, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia revealed in a report on Thursday.
The Philly Fed said its index for current manufacturing activity in the region soared to 43.3 in February from 23.6 in January, with a positive reading indicating growth. The jump surprised economists, who had expected the index to dip to 19.3.
Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX