Milan, January 29 - European stock markets ended Tuesday generally flat, weighed down by negative bank-sector news and a drop in US consumer confidence, even as surveys in Germany and France pointed to improving sentiment. In Milan, the financials-heavy FTSE MIB ended the day slightly -0.03% at 17,891.91. Shares in troubled lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which had been on a rollercoaster recently following reports the bank would be hit with massive derivatives losses and news prosecutors are investigating management's handling of the takeover of Antonveneta, ended the day up 2%. Italian television group Mediaset, owned by former premier Silvio Berlusconi, also gained 2%, on the back of a report by Exane BNP Paribase, which raised its target price on the stock and confirmed its "neutral" stance. In London, the FTSE 100 edged up 0.7% to 6339.19, while Paris' CAC 40 and Frankfurt's DAX both closed essentially flat, at 3785.82 and 7848.57, respectively. Spain's IBEX 35 was the only other loser among the main markets, closing slightly lower, at 8643, following reports of poor December retail sales, which stoked investor fear that the country's recession is deepening. Meanwhile, the spread between Italian 10-year government debt and its German equivalent edged slightly lower Tuesday, closing at 248 basis points, compared with its Monday close of 252 basis points. The Italian treasury sold 8.5 billion of six-month Treasury bills at an auction, paying lower yields compared with the previous auction.
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di Giovanni Pastore