European stocks break 4-day losing streak

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European stocks broke a four-session run of losses on Wednesday as gains in the mining sector made up for some patchy corporate earnings reports.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index closed at 1,449.34, up 5.35 points or 0.4 per cent.

Disappointing third-quarter results from Continental initially drove the tyre and car parts maker’s shares down by more than 2 per cent, although they partially recovered to end 0.7 per cent weaker at €87.

Earnings before interest and tax fell nearly 1 per cent, burdened by higher raw materials costs and production cutbacks in the US. But Conti reaffirmed its forecast for a rise in full-year sales and operating profits.

Dresdner Kleinwort maintained its “buy” recommendation on the stock and target price of €105.

Deutsche Bank also recovered from an early slide as investors took a second look at its third-quarter figures.

Net profits came in broadly in line with expectations although equity trading income fell sharply, echoing results from UBS on Tuesday.

“Take profits,” urged Dresdner Kleinwort analyst Stefan-Michael Stalmann. “Deutsche’s asset & wealth management unit continued to grow in the third quarter, while investment banking declined. We expect more of this divergence going forward.”

But Christopher Wheeler, analyst at Bear Stearns, said the results were robust given the market conditions in the period.

“The outlook for the fourth quarter is positive, with Deutsche Bank stating that the corporate pipeline in strong,” Mr Wheeler said.

“In addition, the investments the bank has been making this year should provide upside in 2006. The rating does not look demanding and we retain an ‘outperform’ rating on the stock with a target price of €110.”

Deutsche Bank shares initially fell to €97.55 before pulling back to close at €98.55, down just 0.1 per cent.

UBS, which tumbled 5 per cent in the previous session, rallied 0.9 per cent to SFr74.95. Jon Peace at Fox-Pitt, Kelton said the size of the Swiss bank’s profit miss left its share price vulnerable, although he maintained an “in-line” rating on the stock with fair value at SFr76.

Buhrmann was a major casualty after third-quarter sales at the Dutch office supplies distributor fell short of forecasts. The stock tumbled 6.8 per cent to €11.35.

Marc Zwartsenburg at ING was disappointed by the company’s lack of a reassuring outlook. “Overall, we did not get some reassuring details on where the business is going in the coming quarters. Hence we might see the stock trade down further to former lows of around €10 until the valuation gets really interesting again.”

At Citigroup, Marc Van’T Sant noted that Buhrmann had missed earnings expectations each quarter this year and said the stock remained cheap. “We’re buyers with a €15 price target,” he said.

Deutsche Telekom attracted some interest after reports that Sistema, the Russian conglomerate, was seeking to take a stake in the German company in exchange for control of its telecoms unit, which includes mobile operator MTS.

Commerzbank, however, was sceptical about such a deal. “As we find the benefits of swapping a majority in the valuable MTS asset for a minority stake in DT questionable, and in light of our expectation of strong political resistance to such a deal, we doubt that the speculated deal is likely to happen in the foreseeable time,” Commerzbank said.

DT shares rose to €13.76 before easing back to close 0.2 per cent lower at €13.53.

Tele2, the Swedish-based telecoms operator, leapt 12.8 per cent to a six-month high of SKr85.75 after it unveiled a better-than-expected set of quarterly earnings and said earnings for the year as a whole would come in at the upper end of its forecast range.

The company also said it would exit some of its European markets and focus more on broadband than its fixed-line operations. Greek mobile telecoms operator Cosmote, meanwhile, gained 2.6 per cent to €19.80. Bear Stearns upgraded the stock from “underperform” to “peer perform” and upped its target price from €16 to €19.7, citing a more benign domestic environment and faster growth in Bulgaria and Romania.

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