Milan

European stocks sputter on U.K. economy fears, sluggish Dow

FTSE-MIB flat at 16,024, spread unvaried at 312 basis points

European stocks sputter on U.K. economy fears, sluggish Dow

Milan, March 12 - European stocks ended mostly flat on Tuesday after downbeat news on the UK economy and weaker US markets made investors wary. In the UK worse than predicted January manufacturing output figures triggered fears the country could be headed for a triple-dip recession. Manufacturing output fell 1.5% on the month, compared with an expected 0.1% rise, and dropped 1.6% on the year, compared with a predicted 1% fall. In the generally flat trading climate, Milan's FTSE-MIB ended the day down 0.4% at 16,024, followed by Spain's IBEX 35, down 0.3% at 8,532.3, and Frankfurt's DAX, which shed 0.2% at 7,966.1. London's FTSE-100 and Paris' CAC 40 ended the day slightly higher, up 0.1% at 6,510.6 and up 0.1% at 3,840, respectively. Italy's financials-heavy index was hit, among others, by share declines at Mediobanca (-1.9%) and UniCredit (-1.5%), while Intesa Sanpaolo ended the day flat. Other losers included luxury goods maker Salvatore Ferragamo (-4.5%), STMicroelectronics (-4.6%), Fiat (-2.6%) and tyre maker Pirelli (-4.2%) after its 2012 results underwhelmed. Counterbalancing the losses were gainers, including Saipem (+5.4%), helped by a positive report by investment bank Akros after the company reported new contracts in Africa. Mediaset gained 5.1% as some investors had to buy shares to close short positions. Meanwhile, Telecom Italia posted a 2.9% gain on hopes the company would soon announced a deal with unions which would allow it to shed some employees. Meanwhile the spread between the country's 10-year government bonds and their German equivalent - a key indicator of investors' confidence in the Italian economy - remained at 312 basis points, unchanged with respect to Monday's close.

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