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European Markets Mostly Lower; Germany Advances

The European markets are mostly lower on Friday, as worries related to the U.S. fiscal cliff dominated the news of China's manufacturing activity expanding at the fastest pace in 14 months in December. The Asian markets mostly rose on China data.

In China, the headline HSBC/Markit purchasing managers' index rose to 50.9 in December from 50.5 in November. This was the highest reading in 14 months. New orders expanded at a faster pace this month, while new export orders decreased reflecting slackening external demand.

The Eurozone private sector contracted at a slower pace as Germany recovered at the end of the year, survey results from Markit Economics showed. The composite Purchasing Managers' Index rose to a nine-month high of 47.3 in December, from 46.5 in November.

The turnaround is being led by Germany, for which the PMI has already returned to positive territory, said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks is adding 0.09 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, falling 0.11 percent.

The German DAX is adding 0.2 percent. The French CAC 40, the UK's FTSE 100 and Switzerland's SMI are losing around 0.1 percent each.

In Frankfurt, Daimler is gaining 2.3 percent. BMW is rising 1.5 percent while Volkswagen is modestly higher.

Commerzbank is advancing 0.5 percent while Deutsche Bank is falling 2.4 percent.

Fresenius, HeidelbergCement, Basf and Adidas are seeing notable gains.

In Paris, Saint-Gobain is losing 1.4 percent after the building materials maker was cut to ''Neutral'' from ''Buy'' at Citigroup.

Barclays reduced its rating on Total to ''Underweight'' from ''Equalweight.'' The stock is falling 0.9 percent.

Alcatel Lucent is surging 10 percent. The telecom equipment maker said it has entered into commitments with Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs for 1.615 billion euros in senior secured credit facilities.

Citigroup raised Lafarge to ''Buy'' from ''Neutral.'' The cement giant is advancing 1.6 percent.

Jefferies raised Sanofi to ''Buy'' from ''Hold.'' The stock is falling modestly.

In London, Anglo American was raised to ''Neutral'' from ''Buy.'' The stock is falling 1.9 percent. Eurasian Natural Resources is dropping 2.7 percent.

Credit Suisse cut BP to ''Neutral'' from ''Outperform,'' but raised Shell to ''Outperform'' from ''Neutral.'' BP is falling around 1 percent while Shell is modestly down.

Volex is plunging 23 percent after the provider of electrical, digital and optical connections warned about its fiscal 2013 revenues and normalized operating profit due mainly to a general softening of demand across all sectors.

Holcim is gaining 0.2 percent in Zurich. Citigroup raised the stock to ''Neutral'' from ''Sell.''

Akzo Nobel is surging 5.7 percent in Amsterdam. The paint maker is selling its North American architectural coatings business to PPG Industries in a deal valued at $1.05 billion.

Across Asia/Pacific, markets ended mostly higher. China's Shanghai Composite Index soared 4.3 percent after upbeat economic data lifted sentiment. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.7 percent and Australia's All Ordinaries added less than tenth of a percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 bucked the trend and slid 0.1 percent.

In the U.S., futures point to a higher open on Wall Street. In the previous session, the Dow and the S&P 500 dropped about 0.6 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 0.7 percent, as lingering concerns about the looming fiscal cliff overshadowed a batch of largely upbeat economic data on retail sales and jobless claims.

In the commodity space, crude for January delivery is adding $0.76 to $86.65 per barrel and February gold is advancing $1.3 to $1698.1 a troy ounce.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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