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Most European Stocks Decline as Investors Weigh Earnings

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Most European stocks fell for a fifth day as investors weighed mixed earnings from companies including Ocado (OCDO) Group Plc and Next Plc, while the European Union said that new sanctions against Russia will be enacted tomorrow.

Next slid the most since April after posting first-half profit that missed analyst predictions. Ocado gained after third-quarter sales grew more than analysts had estimated. Air France-KLM Group added 1.9 percent after saying it plans to increase earnings by as much as 10 percent a year between 2013 and 2017.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.1 percent to 344.27 at the close of trading, paring earlier losses of as much as 0.6 percent. Almost two shares declined for each that rose. The gauge has fallen 1 percent this week as a poll indicated that most Scots favor independence ahead of next (NXT) week’s referendum, and amid lingering investor concern about whether European Central Bank stimulus measures can kickstart the region’s stagnant economy. The index is heading for its first weekly decline in five.

“European earnings are still pretty mixed, but people’s expectations are aligning to more realistic ones,” said Andrew Parry, who helps oversee about 2.6 billion euros ($3.36 billion) as chief executive officer at Hermes Sourcecap Ltd. in London. “Summer months are typically fickle, so now is the time markets want to sort out the trends to play through the New Year. It’s not a forgiving market, so a successful company slightly missing earnings estimates can be treated quite harshly.”

EU Sanctions

Representatives of the 28 EU governments agreed to impose curbs tomorrow on European assistance for Russian oil exploration and production and on the financing of Russian defense and energy companies. The EU also slapped travel bans and asset freezes on 24 more people accused of destabilizing Ukraine, bringing the total to 119.

EU governments voted for the sanctions on Sept. 5, delaying their implementation as the cease-fire between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists began to take hold.

Russia will respond appropriately to the sanctions, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said at a briefing in Moscow.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week to a two-month high, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington.

Jobless claims climbed by 11,000 to 315,000 in the week ended Sept. 6, which included the Labor Day holiday. That was the highest reading since the end of June and compared with a Bloomberg survey median forecast of 300,000.

National benchmark indexes slid in 13 of the 18 western-European markets today. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 0.5 percent, France’s CAC 40 Index fell 0.2 percent, and Germany’s DAX Index retreated 0.1 percent.

Next Falls

Next dropped 3 percent to 6,950 pence after reporting first-half underlying pretax profit of 324.2 million pounds, missing the average analyst estimate of 329 million pounds.

Ashmore Plc tumbled 5.2 percent to 327 pence. The money manager said full-year pretax profit fell 34 percent to 170.3 million pounds ($277 million) due to a stronger U.K. currency and lower performance fees. That missed the average analyst prediction of 176.5 million pounds.

Ocado advanced 0.3 percent to 312.7 pence, paring earlier gains of as much as 9.1 percent. Britain’s largest online-only grocer said retail gross sales climbed 15.5 percent in the third quarter. Analysts had called for a 14.8 percent increase.

Air France-KLM rose 1.9 percent to 8.63 euros. Europe’s largest airline will seek to lift operating profit by as much as 10 percent each year as it expands its low-cost business and offers more services to leisure travelers.