European stocks steady after weak German growth data

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

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies edged up 0.06 percent to 6,111.48 points in late morning trading.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 dipped 0.07 percent to 7,724.02 points and in Paris the CAC 40 gained 0.13 percent to 3,712.98.

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

"Even the weaker than expected growth in Europe's largest economy (Germany) did have not much of a negative impact on the trading landscape."

The German economy notched up its weakest growth in four years in 2012, as Europe's biggest economy increasingly feels the pain from the region's debt crisis, official data showed on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, analysts believe 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.

Markets were 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 firmed to $1.3378 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 118.63 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 $1,680.60 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 4.65 percent to 1,387 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 gained 0.24 percent to 106.25 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.

Some stock markets advanced early in the session on reassurances from US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke that quantitative easing was set to continue in the United States, only to lose ground later in the day.

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

US stock markets had ended mixed on Monday ahead of comments by Bernanke, who urged Congress to raise the nation's borrowing limit as Democrats and Republicans battle over the federal budget.

"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," Bernanke said at a University of Michigan forum.

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.

Earlier on Monday US President Barack Obama delivered a stern warning to rival Republicans against using the debt ceiling as leverage to get more spending cuts, saying the failure to raise it would sew financial chaos.

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