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European stocks were little changed, as the Stoxx Europe 600 Index headed for a weekly gain, after the region’s leaders agreed to speed up payment to the permanent bailout fund. U.S. index futures and Asian shares were little changed.
Commerzbank AG led shares of lenders higher. Banks and utilities were the best-performing group on the benchmark gauge after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised its recommendation on both industries. Repsol YPF SA rallied 2.8 percent to 20.67 euros. Belgacom SA (BELG) fell 3.9 percent after reporting a drop in earnings.
The Stoxx 600 rose 0.1 percent to 267.43 and 8:28 a.m. in London, as a summit of European Union leaders resumes for the second day in Brussels. The March contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 0.2 percent, while the MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.2 percent.
“Investors will be watching for further comments out of day two of the EU economic summit,” Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, wrote. “The discussions will be focused on the euro-zone firewall and growth policies.”
The Stoxx 600 climbed 3.9 percent last month and rose 9.2 percent from the beginning of the year through yesterday. That was the biggest January-February increase since 1998 as optimism mounted that the euro area will contain its debt crisis and U.S. economic data beat estimates. The benchmark index is heading for a 1.1 percent gain this week.
Euro-area leaders agreed to provide capital faster for the planned permanent bailout fund in a concession to international pressure to strengthen the region’s defenses against the debt crisis.
Euro governments might pay the first two annual installments into the 500 billion-euro ($666 billion) fund this year and complete the capitalization in 2015, a year before schedule. A decision will come later today.
“There will be an acceleration,” European Union President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters in Brussels late yesterday after an EU summit. “It could be starting with the payment of two tranches in 2012 but we have to take a definite decision.”
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