Europe Markets

Euro Stocks End Flat on Mixed US Outlook

European stocks ended largely flat Wednesday, having pulled back from earlier losses, as negative U.S. economic data was counterbalanced by news that investment caps for two U.S. mortgage financiers would be lifted.

Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke also reassured investors by saying the Fed would act to support U.S growth.

European indexes had been in the red throughout the morning due to mixed earnings from the likes of HBOS, Gaz de France, Holcim, PPR and Bouygues.

HBOS reported a 3 percent rise in full-year underlying profit, but its shares ended 6.8 percent lower after the UK's largest mortgage lender missed market forecasts, renewing concerns over funding for banks.

The banking and financial services sectors were both lower at the end of trading.

UK cement maker Holcim's earnings topped forecasts with an 84 percent rise in full-year net profit. The company also reiterated its long-term growth targets. 

Full-year profit at Gaz de France came in ahead of expectations, sending shares higher by 2.4 percent. The firm said performance in the second half bodes well for 2008.

Also in France, retailer PPR's net profit beat expectations with a 34.6 percent increase for the full year, thanks to a strong performance in luxury goods and its recently acquired Puma unit.

French telecoms and construction group Bouygues reported a 32 percent increase in full-year recurring net profit but said sales growth is likely to slow in 2008. Its shares closed lower by 6.5 percent.

In financial news, UBSshareholders approved a 13 billion Swiss franc ($11.94 billion) capital injection from Singapore and an unidentified Middle East investor, but heaped scorn on the bank's chairman, Marcel Ospel, over subprime losses.

The European Commission fined Microsofta record $1.35 billion for defying sanctions imposed on the software giant for antitrust violations, far exceeding the original penalty.

- Reuters contributed to this report.

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