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European stocks sag despite surging German confidence

European share prices slid for the most part on Tuesday, despite soaring investor confidence in eurozone powerhouse Germany, with Frankfurt stocks wobbling on rumours that focused on the country's venerable central bank, dealers said.

Equities also fell after a subdued session in Asia, as the Bank of Japan's plan to boost the economy disappointed many investors.

As stock markets shut down for the day, London's FTSE 100 index of top companies had edged slightly lower, down by 0.03 percent to 6,179.17 points.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 index lost 0.68 percent to 7,696.21 points and in Paris, the CAC 40 index declined by 0.59 percent to 3,741.01.

A spokeswoman for the German financial markets watchdog BaFin told AFP: "We will look to determine if there was an attempt to manipulate markets," after rumours circulated via social media regarding a possible resignation of central bank governor Jens Weidmann.

The Bundesbank firmly denied the speculation, with a spokesman telling AFP: "It is completely false."

US markets were also mostly softer in midday deals meanwhile as traders came back from a three-day weekend, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up a slight 0.03 percent, the broad-based S&P 500 giving up 0.15 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite off by 0.30 percent.

In foreign exchange activity, the European single currency edged lower to $1.3296 from $1.3313 late on Monday in New York. On the London Bullion Market, gold prices rose to $1,690.50 an ounce from $1,687.50.

On sovereign debt markets, Portuguese 10-year bonds traded with a yield of 5.9 percent, the first time they were below 6.0 percent since December 2010, a sign of rising confidence in debt issued by weaker eurozone countries.

In another upbeat development, German investor sentiment has struck the highest levels since the start of the eurozone debt crisis in 2010 as the outlook for Europe's top economy continues to brighten, a survey found on Tuesday.

The investor confidence index calculated by the ZEW economic institute soared to 31.5 points in January from 6.9 points in December.

That marked the highest level since May 2010, when Greece had to be bailed out and the sovereign debt crisis began to unfold.

"A clearly better-than-expected ZEW number, showing a surge in economic optimism managed to lift Dax out of the misery it suffered this morning," added Anita Paluch at trading firm Gekko Global Markets.

"ZEW managed to give a push in the right direction. As the environment, in which Germany's trading partners operate still remains fragile though, this will undoubtedly influence the economic growth of the European growth machine."

In company news, Britain-based brewer SABMiller announced that revenues swelled by 17 percent in its third quarter, or three months to December, compared with a year earlier.

In reaction, the maker of Foster's, Grolsch, Miller Lite, Peroni Nastro Azzuro and Pilsner Urquell saw its share price gain 1.33 percent to 3,000.0 pence.

Asian markets traded mixed on Tuesday, with Tokyo's Nikkei falling and the yen strengthening as the Bank of Japan's plan to boost the economy fell flat.

After a two-day meeting the central bank said it would adopt a two percent inflation target demanded by the country's new government while also launching an open-ended asset-purchase scheme.

Tokyo enjoyed an initial and brief surge after the announcement, jumping into positive territory, but soon fell back as investors read the details.

The Tokyo stock market finished 0.35 percent lower, Hong Kong gained 0.29 percent and Seoul won 0.49 percent, while Sydney was flat and Shanghai fell 0.56 percent in value.