EU stocks climb to 4 1/2-year high be­fore sum­mit


Euro­pean stocks ad­vanced to a 4 1/2-year high as the re­gion's pol­icy mak­ers be­gin a two-day sum­mit in Brus­sels. U.S. in­dex fu­tures rose while Asian shares were lit­tle changed. Hei­del­bergCe­ment AG added 2.4 per­cent as debt de­clined more than ex­pected. Royal Boskalis West­min­ster NV, the world's largest dredg­ing com­pany, ral­lied 2.7 per­cent as full-year profit beat an­a­lysts' es­ti­mates.

The Stoxx Europe 600 In­dex ad­vanced 0.4 per­cent to 296.49 at 8:07 a.m. in Lon­don, the high­est level since June 2008. The bench­mark mea­sure has risen 6 per­cent this year as data on US pay­rolls and Chi­nese ex­ports bol­stered con­fi­dence in the global eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

"Mar­kets are grind­ing higher, pushed by bet­ter-than- ex­pected U.S. data re­sist­ing fis­cal head­winds," said Wi­told Bahrke, who helps over­see $55 bil­lion as se­nior strate­gist at PFA Pen­sion A/S in Copen­hagen. "On the other hand, anx­i­ety is grow­ing steadily, pri­mar­ily re­gard­ing euro-zone de­vel­op­ments. No­body is ex­pect­ing any­thing con­crete from the sum­mit, but there is the po­ten­tial for sur­prises, for ex­am­ple on Cyprus."

The MSCI Asia Pa­cific In­dex fell less than 0.1 per­cent to­day, and Stan­dard & Poor's 500 In­dex fu­tures ad­vanced 0.2 per­cent.

Euro­pean lead­ers start a two-day Brus­sels sum­mit to­day, with eu­roarea fi­nance min­is­ters meet­ing sep­a­rately to­mor­row to dis­cuss a bailout for Cyprus. Pol­icy mak­ers are loos­en­ing aus­ter­ity mea­sures as the re­ces­sion and mount­ing un­em­ploy­ment in south­ern Europe over­take the debt cri­sis as the re­gion's big­gest headache. A La­bor De­part­ment report at 8:30 a.m. in Washington may show that U.S. ini­tial job­less claims in­creased to 350,000 in the week ended March 9, from 340,000 the pre­vi­ous pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the me­dian forecast of econ­o­mists in a Bloomberg sur­vey.

Hei­del­bergCe­ment rose 2.4 per­cent to 55.88 eu­ros af­ter the Ger­man ce­ment maker said debt de­clined more than ex­pected last year as im­proved earn­ings cov­ered div­i­dends and re­pay­ments. Bor­row­ings de­clined 700 mil­lion eu­ros ($907 mil­lion) to 7 bil­lion eu­ros, the com­pany said to­day. An­a­lysts had pre­dicted 7.4 bil­lion eu­ros, on av­er­age.

Boskalis West­min­ster gained 2.7 per­cent to 34.25 eu­ros. The com­pany re­ported 2012 net in­come of 250 mil­lion eu­ros, beat­ing an­a­lysts' es­ti­mates of 242 mil­lion eu­ros. Rev­enue rose 11 per­cent to 3.1 bil­lion eu­ros.

As­si­cu­razioni Gen­er­ali SpA in­creased 4.4 per­cent to 12.72 eu­ros even af­ter Italy's big­gest in­surer re­ported a fourth- quar­ter loss.

Home Re­tail Group Plc surged 16 per­cent to 153.6 pence. The U.K. re­tailer raised its full-year profit es­ti­mate as sales beat ex­pec­ta­tions at Home­base home-im­prove­ment stores and the Ar­gos cat­a­log chain in the last two months of the fis­cal year.

OC Oer­likon Corp. (OERL) fell 2 per­cent to 12.40 Swiss francs. The world's largest maker of tex­tile ma­chin­ery will ap­point a new chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer to re­place Michael Buscher, who led the com­pany through a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion since join­ing in 2010.

Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Juerg Fedier will act as in­terim CEO, the Pfa­ef­fikon, Switzer­land-based com­pany said, with­out giv­ing any rea­son for the switch.

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