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European Markets Finished Lower Again Amid Economic Concerns

The European markets fell again on Wednesday, with weakness among banks and mining stocks. Investors turned instead toward more defensive plays, which led to gains among pharmaceutical stocks. The weak GDP result from the U.K. and the lower than expected increase in U.S. durable goods orders also contributed to the negative mood in Europe.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it is far too early to declare victory in the U.S. economic recovery, as joblessness was still at a troubling high and housing markets still weak.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks fell by 1.02 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, declined by 0.95 percent.

The DAX of Germany dropped by 1.13 percent and the CAC 40 of France closed down by 1.14 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. fell by 0.99 percent and the SMI of Switzerland finished lower by 0.30 percent.

In Frankfurt, Man fell by 0.40 percent after WestLB downgraded its rating on the stock to "Reduce" from "Neutral."

Citigroup initiated Merck with a "Neutral" rating. The stock finished down by 0.41 percent.

Cheuvreux initiated Axel Springer with an "Outperform" rating. The stock closed lower by 2.01 percent.

Kuka climbed by 0.80 percent. The company reported significantly higher annual earnings with improved performance in both robotics and Systems segments. The company expects 2012 sales to be in line or above last year and higher EBIT margin.

In Paris, Danone increased by 0.40 percent. UBS raised the stock to "European Food & HPC Most Preferred List."

Total continued to decline on the news that it could take up to six months to fix a gas leak at its Elgin oil fields in the North Sea. Total finished lower by 1.40 percent.

In London, ICAP declined by 3.54 percent. The company's expectations for full-year performance remain in line with the previously issued guidance, amid an improvement in risk appetite in some markets in the fourth quarter.

Prudential fell by 3.62 percent and RSA Insurance dropped by 7.47 percent. Swiss Re said 2011 witnessed around 64 percent increase in unprecedented economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters, thanks mainly to the earthquake in Japan, while insured losses surged 142 percent from 2010.

Thomas Cook fell by 2.15 percent. The tour operator said it experienced improvement in UK booking trends in the last few weeks, while Europe remains subdued.

Evraz finished lower by 5.51 percent after its annual profit declined.

In Zurich, Nestle fell by 0.35 percent after UBS downgraded its rating on the stock to "Neutral" from "Buy."

The French economy expanded as estimated initially in the fourth quarter, the statistical office Insee said Wednesday. The gross domestic product rose 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter, following a 0.3 percent increase in the third quarter.

The UK economy contracted more than initially estimated during the fourth quarter, revised data released by the Office for National Statistics showed Wednesday. The gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter compared to the previously estimated 0.2 percent decline. Meanwhile, the third quarter GDP growth was revised up to 0.6 percent from 0.5 percent estimated previously.

Eurozone money supply growth accelerated unexpectedly in February, data from the European Central Bank showed Wednesday. The broad monetary aggregate M3 increased 2.8 percent year-on-year, faster than the 2.5 percent rise seen in January. Economists were expecting the rate to slow to 2.4 percent.

Orders for U.S. manufactured durable goods rebounded in February after showing a notable drop in January, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday. The report showed that durable goods orders rose by 2.2 percent in February following a revised 3.6 percent decrease in January. Economists had expected orders to increase by about 2.9 percent compared to the 3.7 percent drop that had been reported for the previous month.

by RTT Staff Writer

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