Europe Markets

Euro Stocks End Lower as Banks, Tech Fall

European equities closed firmly lower Tuesday, with banking the technology stocks suffering heavy selling after Intel lowered its gross margin forecast for the current quarter.

In corporate news, Dual-listed mining giant BHP Billiton is in talks with sub-underwriting banks on a $55 billion loan backing its hostile bid for rival Rio Tinto, banking sources said.

Meanwhile, staffing company Adecco's fourth-quarter net profit fell 29 percent, less than analysts expected. The Swiss-based company said it sees good growth rates in Europe while U.S. demand will remain weak. Adecco shares ended 0.5 percent lower.

Germany's ProSiebenSat.1 reported a 36 percent rise in 2007 operating earnings with sales for the period climbing by nearly 30 percent. The broadcaster said it expected sales and earnings to rise in 2008, but was not specific. Shares declined 6.5 percent.

In the UK, Cable & Wireless set new targets for its businesses in Europe, Asia and the U.S., putting revenue growth at between 5 and 8 percent per year. The telecom group reiterated its 2007-2008 guidance.

Food producer Premier Foodsposted a net loss in 2007 and confirmed it will cut its dividend almost in half in order to focus on its integration and restructuring program. Shares increased by more than 12 percent.

Also in the UK, fund management firm Schroders reported a 35 percent rise in full-year pretax profit, beating expectations and sending shares higher by nearly 4 percent. The firm said it expects volatile market conditions to persist through much of 2008.

And on the merger & acquisition front, Norwegian oil company StatoilHydroagreed to buy stakes in two projects from U.S. Anadarko Petroleum for $1.8 billion plus a conditional oil-price related payout of up to $300 million.

The basic resource sector was one of the best performing sector of the Dow Jones Stoxx indexes, trading higher by 1.2 percent as gold, silver and platinum remain at record highs.

On the economic front, quarterly euro zone economic growth almost halved in the last three months of 2007 and prices at factory gates jumped in January, data showed.

And the Swiss economy grew at twice the expected rate in the fourth quarter of 2007, driven by services exports and consumer spending.

- Reuters contributed to this report.