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European stocks little changed as BAT to Nordea fall

European stocks were little changed amid speculation the European Central Bank will boost stimulus measures and as some earnings reports missed estimates.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped 0.2 percent to 323.23 at 10:30 a.m. in London, after earlier rising as much as 0.3 percent and falling 0.5 percent. Even so, two shares in the gauge climbed for every one that slid. The benchmark measure rallied 2.1 percent yesterday as the ECB was said to buy covered bonds for a second day and Reuters reported that the central bank is considering corporate-debt purchases.

“The ECB buying bonds is just speculation, but investors are thinking there’s no smoke without fire, so the sentiment is better,” said Christian Stocker, a strategist at UniCredit Bank AG in Munich. “We’ve seen some disappointments in earnings and profit forecasts. Expectations have been very low. The third quarter was bad for the economy in Europe. Because of economic uncertainty, it’s currently more important to look at earnings at cyclical companies for the next developments.”

British American Tobacco Plc helped push a gauge of personal and household-goods stocks lower after saying cigarette shipments fell further in the first nine months of the year. Nordea Bank AB lost 2.1 percent after posting worse-than-forecast net income. ABB Ltd. rose 1.5 percent after reporting third-quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates.

Global Rout

In the past four weeks, European stocks led a rout that helped erase as much as $5.5 trillion from equities worldwide amid concern that a potential recession in the region would undermine growth as the Federal Reserve winds down its asset-purchase program.

Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures fell 0.3 percent today, after the index completed its biggest four-day rally since January 2013.

The Stoxx 600 rebounded 4.4 percent since its low last week through yesterday as the ECB returned to the market, buying Italian covered bonds. The central bank bought short-dated French notes and Spanish securities the day before. Reports tomorrow may show gauges for euro-area manufacturing, services and consumer confidence weakened in October, economists’ estimates show, strengthening the case for more stimulus.

“Investors are waiting for tomorrow’s manufacturing and services data,” UniCredit’s Stocker said. “There are hopes that the fourth quarter will be better than the third.”