Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- European stocks retreated as officials said they plan to return to Athens next week after three days of consultations failed to produce a solution to the country’s debt crisis.
PSA Peugeot Citroen and Volkswagen AG led a decline in automakers. BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, the world’s largest mining companies, fell with metal prices. Deutsche Lufthansa AG lost 5 percent as Deutsche Bank AG downgraded Europe’s second-biggest airline. Stada Arzneimittel AG slumped 19 percent for the biggest drop in three years.
The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index sank 1.7 percent to 225.33 at the 4:30 p.m. close in London. The gauge rose for the fifth day in six yesterday as Greece described its debt talks with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund as “productive” and investors speculated the Federal Reserve will provide more stimulus at today’s meeting. The Stoxx 600 has still fallen 23 percent from this year’s peak on Feb. 17 amid concern the global economic recovery is at risk.
“There is still nervousness in the market,” said Heinz- Gerd Sonnenschein, an equity strategist at Deutsche Postbank AG in Bonn. “There’s fear about what will come out of the FOMC meeting and about what’s coming up with Greece. The Greek problems will need time to be solved. We still have a long and difficult way to go.”
Greek Debt Talks
The European Union said that a “full mission” of officials from the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and EU will return to Athens next week after talks with Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos made “good progress.”
The debt crisis has generated as much as 300 billion euros ($410 billion) in credit risk for European banks, the IMF said, wrote in its Global Financial Stability Report released today.
The Federal Open Market Committee may decide today to replace short-term Treasuries in its $1.65 trillion portfolio with long-term bonds in a bid to lower rates for mortgages, auto and consumer loans, according to 71 percent of 42 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The central bank was scheduled to issue its statement after the close of European markets.
Bank of England officials considered ways of adding stimulus to the economy this month and most of them said an expansion of their 200 billion-pound ($313 billion) bond purchase program is “increasingly probable.” The nine-member Monetary Policy Committee voted 8-1 to maintain the current size of the bond plan and were unanimous in keeping the benchmark rate at a record low of 0.5 percent. The minutes of the Sept. 8 meeting show the decision on whether to expand stimulus was “finely balanced.”
‘Near the Bottom’
“The ball is in the court of the policy makers,” said Markus Steinbeis, head of equity portfolio management at the Unterfoehring, Germany-based unit of Pioneer Investments KGmbH, which oversees about $221 billion globally. “The market is hoping for any kind of reaction from the Fed. We’re probably near the bottom in the short term.”
Policy makers battling Europe’s debt crisis shouldn’t rule out issuing joint euro-area bonds and must develop tools to make that possible, even if German opposition means it can’t be done immediately, European Commission President Jose Barroso said.
“The commission believes we should look also at that option,” Barroso said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. “We are not saying it is immediately. This is a matter that must be discussed, but we should not exclude that option either.”
National benchmark indexes retreated in 13 of the 18 western European markets. Germany’s DAX Index declined 2.5 percent, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 1.4 percent and France’s CAC 40 dropped 1.6 percent.
Peugeot, Europe’s second-largest carmaker, slid 5.7 percent to 17.04 euros and Volkswagen preferred shares slipped 2.6 percent to 111 euros. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Daimler AG, the world’s biggest makers of luxury cars, declined 2.7 percent to 56.09 euros and 3.8 percent to 35.40 euros, respectively.
Fiat SpA fell 6.2 percent to 4.04 as Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its corporate family rating. A gauge of auto- industry shares dropped 3.3 percent for the second-largest retreat among 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600.
BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, fell 3.9 percent to 1,888.5 pence, while Rio Tinto, the second-largest, retreated 4.2 percent to 3,389 pence. Mining companies were the worst performers as a group in the Stoxx 600 as copper, lead, nickel, tin and zinc declined on the London Metal Exchange.
Lufthansa fell 5 percent to 9.80 euros, the lowest price since August 2009, as the airline was downgraded to “sell” from “hold” at Deutsche Bank. The company expects fuel expenses to climb to 6.4 billion euros this year, according to a presentation on its website today.
Stada Arzneimittel slumped 19 percent to 18.79 euros, the largest decline since July 2008. The drugmaker said it will post a one-off charge of about 97 million euros in the third quarter because of unpaid bills from Serbian drug wholesalers.
Deutsche Bank retreated 2.3 percent to 23.90 euros as Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause said Germany’s biggest bank is “fighting” to meet its goal of 10 billion euros in operating pretax profit this year.
Mediobanca SpA sank 3.3 percent to 5.51 euros as Italy’s biggest publicly traded investment bank reported a quarterly loss after writing down the value of Greek bonds and its stake in Telco SpA, the largest investor in Telecom Italia SpA.
Metro AG rallied for a second day, climbing 2 percent to 31.51 euros. There was no “power struggle” at the retailer’s supervisory board over the extension of Chief Executive Officer Eckhard Cordes’s contract, according to the top management of Franz Haniel & Cie. GmbH, one of the retailer’s largest shareholders, the Financial Times Deutschland reported today.
--With assistance from Corinne Gretler in Zurich. Editors: Andrew Rummer, Will Hadfield
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