European stocks were little changed this week as better-than-expected economic data from China and the US offset concern that debt ceiling talks will weigh on recovering growth in the world’s biggest economy.
The STOXX 600 Europe Index fell less than 0.1 percent to 287.03 this week. The measure climbed to its highest level since February 2011 last week amid speculation that US companies’ earnings would exceed analysts’ estimates.
National benchmark indeces rose in 12 of Europe’s 18 western markets. France’s CAC 40 Index added 1 percent, the UK’s FTSE 100 Index gained 0.5 percent and Germany’s DAX fell by 0.2 percent.
China’s economic growth accelerated for the first time in two years as Beijing’s efforts to revive demand drove a rebound in industrial output and retail sales.
China’s GDP advanced 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday.
The US economy picked up across much of the country last month, boosted by auto and home sales, even as the outlook for unemployment showed few signs of improvement, the US Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in its Beige Book survey.
US builders broke ground on more houses than forecast last month. Starts climbed 12.1 percent to a 954,000 annual rate, the most since June 2008, the US Department of Commerce said on Thursday.
The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments fell more than forecast last week. Applications for jobless benefits decreased by 37,000 to 335,000 in the week ended on Saturday last week, the lowest since the period ended Jan. 19, 2008, US Department of Labor data showed.
With as little as a month until the US runs out of money to pay its bills, US President Barack Obama this week warned Republicans in the US Congress not to use the need for a debt limit increase to force through new spending cuts.
US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner said the so-called extraordinary measures he is taking to avoid breaching the debt ceiling would only work until the middle of next month or early March. He added that failure to raise the limit could “impose severe economic hardship” on the US.