European stocks decline after weak German growth data

European stock markets traded lower on Tuesday as dealers reacted to weak economic growth data for Germany, while awaiting key Chinese numbers due later in the week.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies was 0.15 percent lower at 6,098.91 points in afternoon trading.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 fell by 0.90 percent to 7,659.83 points and in Paris the CAC 40 was off by 0.29 percent at 3,697.33.

In initial trades on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.3 percent, the broad-based S&P 500 lost 0.4 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.6 percent.

"Markets are going nowhere," Gekko Global Markets trader Anita Paluch commented.

Sentiment was dampened by news that the the German economy, Europe's biggest, notched up its weakest growth in four years in 2012, as it increasingly feels the pain from the eurozone debt crisis.

Analysts believe however that the lull in growth will prove only temporary.

German gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by about 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, bringing full-year growth to just 0.7 percent, the federal statistics office Destatis calculated in preliminary data.

In 2010 and 2011, the German economy had expanded by 4.2 percent and 3.0 percent respectively.

And a German economy ministry source told AFP that the government would cut the 2013 growth forecast to 0.4 percent from a previous estimate of 1.0 percent when it publishes its annual economic report on Wednesday.

Markets were also looking ahead to fourth-quarter Chinese growth data due to be released on Friday, which analysts hope will confirm that the world's number two economy is picking up following a slowdown.

The euro fell to $1.3330 from $1.3376 late in New York on Monday, when the European single currency had hit a near 11-month high against the greenback following positive comments last week by ECB chief Mario Draghi on the outlook for the eurozone.

Also on Tuesday, the euro fell to 118.24 yen after reaching a 20-month high above 120 yen on Monday.

The yen rebounded after Japan's economy minister warned over the currency's sharp decline, saying it could hit consumers by making imported goods more expensive.

Japan's currency has tumbled since late last year as the country's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power with promises of massive spending and calls for aggressive central bank easing to boost the economy.

On the London Bullion Market meanwhile, the price of gold jumped to $1,681.0 an ounce from $1,666.50 on Monday.

In company news, HMV suspended trading of its shares as the British music retailer looked to the Deloitte financial group to help save it from a collapse which could see the loss of more than 4,000 jobs.

HMV Group announced late on Monday in London that it was entering administration, a process whereby a troubled company calls upon independent expert financial help in an attempt to remain operational.

There was better news for Burberry, whose share price rallied 4.15 percent to 1,380 pence, topping the FTSE 100 leaderboard, after the British luxury clothing and accessories group said sales rose seven percent in the group's third quarter.

In Frankfurt, Allianz slipped by 0.09 percent to 105.90 euros as the German insurance giant stuck to its full-year profit forecast despite taking a hit of 455 million euros ($590 million) from last year's Hurricane Sandy in the United States.

Asian stock markets closed mixed on Tuesday on a lack of direction from Wall Street, but Tokyo hit a 32-month high on hopes for new central bank easing despite giving up early gains as the yen rebounded, traders said.

Tokyo put on 0.72 percent to 10,879.08 -- its highest level since April 30, 2010.

In the United States, the debt ceiling remained in the spotlight, with US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke telling a University of Michigan forum: "It's very, very important that Congress take the necessary action to raise the debt ceiling to avoid the situation where the government doesn't pay its bills."

The United States ran up against its current borrowing limit of $16.4 trillion at the end of 2012, but the Treasury says it is using "extraordinary measures" to extend the limit until late February.

burs-wai/rl

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