MADRID – European stock ended mostly lower Wednesday as investors moved to cash in on recent gains, while weaker-than-expected manufacturing data and a rise in Italian borrowing costs weighed on sentiment.
ASM International NV, Commerzbank AG and Inditex SA were among the biggest decliners.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index shed 0.05 point, or less than 0.1%, to close at 295.32. The index managed to eke out a fractional gain in a lackluster session Tuesday.
The index pared some losses after better-than-expected U.S. retail sales data. European equities trimmed losses as Wall Street turned slightly positive.
Banks were among the biggest decliners. Shares of Commerzbank AG fell 9.7% after the German bank announced a EUR2.5 billion ($3.25 billion) capital increase that will allow it to repay the remaining EUR1.6 billion of the more than EUR16 billion stake in hybrid capital it received from the German government in 2008 and 2009.
Another big mover, ASM International (ASMI), sank more than 10% after the Dutch semiconductor firm said it would sell an 8% to 12% stake in ASM Pacific Technology Ltd via a partial secondary share placement. The company said it was making this move in order to address the nonrecognition by markets of the value of the combined business of the company.
Atif Latif, director of trading, equities and derivatives at Guardian Stockbrokers, said European markets saw some profit-taking on Wednesday. The Stoxx 600 index remains up 1.9% in the month-to-date, and up 5.6% since the beginning of the year after closing at its highest level in more than 4 1/2 years earlier this month.
“We don’t see this dip today as anything too concerning as buyers are still re entering the market on weakness,” Latif said in emailed comments.
Italian stocks were a big loser on Wednesday. Borrowing costs rose in the country’s first bond auction since the government’s credit rating was cut to BBB plus from A minus by Fitch Ratings last week, which put some pressure on bond yields. The FTSE MIB Italy index slid 1.7% to 15,745.34.
Shares of Enel fell 6% after the Italian utility reportedly posted a drop in net income for 2012. But several Italian banks were also down a chunk, with Unione di Banche Italiane SCpA dropping more than 6%.
Spain was also under pressure. Heavyweight retailer Inditex fell 2.7% after the group reported a 22% profit rise, but analysts were disappointed by fourth-quarter sales, gross margin, and cash generation, as well as its dividend and store-opening guidance.
The Spain IBEX 35 fell 0.4% to 8,498.30.
Greek stocks proved a bright spot for Europe on Wednesday, with the ASE Composite index up 3.4% to 973.12. Shares of OPAP SA jumped more than 5%, while Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. SA rose 3.4%.
On the data front, January euro-zone industrial production fell 0.4% on a monthly basis, a steeper-than-expected decline and the fourth fall in five months, said economists at Capital Economics.
“January’s fall in euro-zone industrial production is a timely reminder that, despite the improvement in business and financial market sentiment, the region may have remained in recession in Q1,” said Ben May, European economist, in a note.
Sluggish manufacturing output data out of the U.K. on Tuesday raised fears that economy is headed for a triple-dip recession and weighed on the British pound. That helped the U.K. index on Tuesday, but shares fell Wednesday as investors sold off big banks and resource stocks.
HSBC PLC (HBC) fell 0.4% and Standard Chartered PLC dropped 1.7%.
Along with the banks, losses of 2% for miner Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) and a 1.3% drop for BHP Billiton PLC (BHP) dragged the FTSE 100 index lower. The index fell 0.5% to 6,481.50.
The German DAX 30 index managed to hang on to a small gain, rising 0.1% to 7,970.91, despite the tumble for Commerzbank. Shares of Deutsche Bank AG fell 1.2%, but losses were contained for some of its heaviest weighted stocks.
Renault SA lost 1.3% in Paris. The French CAC 40 index fell 0.1% to 3,836.04.
Shares of L’Or�al SA rose 0.9%, helping support the French index.
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EUROPE MARKETS: Italy Auction, Data Weigh On Europe Stocks – Fox Business