Sun, Jan 06, 2013 - Page 15 News List

US budget deal pushes EU markets to 22-month high


European stocks posted their biggest weekly gain since November, rising to a 22-month high after US lawmakers agreed on a budget, avoiding sweeping tax increases and spending cuts that had threatened to push the world’s largest economy into a recession.

The STOXX Europe 600 Index added 3.3 percent to 287.83 this past week, its largest rally in six weeks. The equity benchmark surged 14 percent last year as the European Central Bank introduced a bond-buying program and the US Federal Reserve opted for a third round of asset purchases.

“It’s good news that the US didn’t miss the deadline,” said Michael Morris, who oversees US$1 billion as head of European equities at Mitsubishi UFJ Asset Management in London. “Though they’ve kicked the can down the road again and I don’t believe the bill solves the problem, there’s a window in the next few months when both parties can come to an agreement to deal with spending. So I wouldn’t be too gloomy about that.”

The STOXX 600 rallied to its highest level since February 2011 after the US House of Representatives passed a budget bill on Tuesday that delayed automatic spending reductions by two months. The legislation also prevented taxes from rising for more than 99 percent of US households.

A US Department of Labor report on Friday showed that the US economy created more jobs last month than expected. Payrolls increased by 155,000, beating economists’ average forecast of 152,000. The unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent after the Labor Department revised the figure for November to 7.8 percent from 7.7 percent.

In China, manufacturing expanded for a third consecutive month last month. The purchasing managers’ index remained unchanged at 50.6, the National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said on Tuesday. A reading above 50 means that activity has increased.

A gauge of mining companies rose 4.2 percent, its biggest weekly rally in three-and-a-half months, as Xstrata PLC added 7.8 percent and Glencore PLC surged 7.7 percent. Anglo American PLC, a mining company with operations from Africa to Chile, jumped 5.2 percent.

Transocean soared 17 percent, its largest weekly advance since August 2010, after the world’s biggest operator of offshore drilling rigs agreed on Thursday to settle all US federal claims following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform for US$1.4 billion. The accident killed 11 people and caused the world’s worst accidental oil spill. The US Department of Justice agreed to end its criminal probe, Transocean said in a statement.

ArcelorMittal added 5 percent. The world’s largest steelmaker sold the stake in ArcelorMittal Mines Canada Inc for US$1.1 billion to a group led by China Steel Corp (中鋼) and South Korea’s Posco.

Alcatel-Lucent SA surged 19 percent for the shares’ biggest weekly rally in almost two years. The telecommunications equipment maker slumped 17 percent last year. Imagination Technologies Group PLC rose 11 percent, its biggest weekly gain in more than a year.

Fresnillo PLC fell 2.6 percent as the price of silver dropped. UBS AG lowered its rating on the stock, saying the shares had outperformed the metal and its peers.

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