European stocks tread water

Europe's main stock markets treaded water on Tuesday as traders responded to positive economic data and the latter stages of the current earnings season.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares edged up 0.03 percent to 6,621.53 points approaching midday, as heavyweight miners retreated in value, offsetting news of a strong rebound for British manufacturing.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 slid 0.12 percent to 8,4 points despite the release of official data showing that German industrial orders had risen by 3.8 percent in June.

The CAC 40 in Paris drifted up 0.08 percent to 4,053.38 points.

"After a decent run up in recent weeks, blue-chip mining stocks have cooled as lower metals prices take the steam out of the rally," said Matt Basi, head of UK sales trading at CMC Markets.

The euro climbed to $1.3291 from $1.3255 late in New York on Monday. The dollar eased to 98.16 yen from 98.22 yen.

Sterling was steady against the European single currency, while it slipped to $1.5344 from $1.5352 on Monday.

Britain's manufacturing output rebounded with a bang in June, official data showed, providing further evidence of the country's broad-based economic recovery.

Output jumped 1.9 percent in June from May, when it had fallen by 0.7 percent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

Traders also digested further earnings updates, which along with improving European and US economic data, have helped to lift stock markets over the past month.

The DAX and CAC indices have each rallied by about 8.0 percent in value since the start of July.

On Tuesday, shares in InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) jumped 4.5 percent to 1,994 pence after the company announced a 25-percent increase in first-half net profits thanks to a strong showing by its American operations.

Profit after tax jumped to $340 million (256 million euros) in the six months to the end of June compared with net earnings of $271 million in the first half of 2012, said the company that owns the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotel chains.

IHG added that it would pay sharholders a special dividend totalling $350 million.

In France, shares in Credit Agricole rose 1.3 percent to 7.94 euros after the bank, free of big millstones in Greece and Italy, said its second-quarter net profit jumped to 696 million euros compared with 111 million euros in the same period of last year.

US stocks opened lower in the face of fresh data showing an improving US trade balance -- seen as more evidence that the Federal Reserve's stimulus could be pulled back in the coming months.

Five minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.46 percent to 15,540.71 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.19 percent to 1,703.89, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite lost 0.12 percent to 3,688.62.

The Commerce Department's trade data for June showed a narrowing trade deficit, which analysts said points to a likely upward revision to the growth estimate for the quarter, and firm growth in the current quarter.

With traders focused on whether Fed stimulus continues, that was another sign that a windup of the $85 billion a month quantitative easing program would be reeled in soon.

Asian stock markets closed mixed on Tuesday as investor concerns lingered over a potential tapering of US monetary stimulus, analysts said.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the price of gold slipped to $1,292 an ounce on the London Bullion Market from $1,304.75 on Monday.

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