European stocks mostly lower after weak German growth

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

London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies managed a gain of 0.15 percent to 6,117.31 points, but Frankfurt's DAX 30 fell 0.69 percent to 7,675.91 points and in Paris the CAC 40 gave up 0.29 percent to 3,697.35 points.

Madrid slid 0.36 percent but Milan rose 0.44 percent.

"European equity markets continued to stall today, struggling to maintain the somewhat inexplicable run we have seen in recent weeks in the face of ongoing bleakness in the eurozone macroeconomic outlook," said Alex Young, a market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

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 an impact 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.

The euro fell to $1.3342 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 118.05 yen after reaching a 20-month high above 120 yen on Monday.

On the London Bullion Market meanwhile, the price of gold jumped to $1,680.50 an ounce from $1,666.50 on Monday.

In Germany, the financial daily Handelsblatt reported that the country's central bank wants to recuperate gold reserves currently stored in France, and some of those it holds in New York.

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 4.6 percent to 1,386 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 0.28 percent to 105.70 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.

US equity markets moved lower amid renewed concerns about the acrimonious Washington debate on fiscal issues.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.11 percent to 13,491.79 points in midday trading.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.19 percent to 1,467.94 points. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.47 percent to 3,102.87 points.

Fitch ratings agency warned Tuesday that it might cut the US' top "AAA" rating if Washington power brokers fail to reach an accord on the debt ceiling.

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-rl/wai

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