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LONDON -- The week started well for the stock markets of Europe, after Greece voted in a pro-austerity government and the delegates departed from the G20 summit with renewed optimism -- maybe the eurozone nations will work together to save the union and lower the costs of borrowing. Indeed, Spain's 10-year bond yields obligingly dropped back below 7% again.
But the good was undone later in the week, when credit-rating agency Moody's downgraded the status of 15 major banks, including Barclays and HSBC in the U.K., France's BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole, and Deutsche Bank in Germany.
London's FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) turned tail and, after rising to a high point of 5,622, fell back to 5,514 to end just 20 points up on the week.
It was a similar story elsewhere, with the German DAX (INDEX: ^GDAXI ) reaching a midweek high of 6,426 before dropping to 6,263, for an overall half-percent gain. And in Paris, the CAC40 (INDEX: ^FCHI ) hit 3,153 before receding to 3,091, for a mere 3-point advance versus a week ago.
Things went the opposite way in the troubled southern economies, with the Spanish IBEX 35 (INDEX: ^IBEX ) dropping to 6,483 before coming back strongly to end up 2.3% to 6,876, while Greece's Athens General Index (INDEX: GD.AT ) finished the week 8.5% up, to 608.
FTSE 100 fallers of the week included four of the big miners, as fears of a hard Chinese landing resurfaced. Xstrata lost 8.4% to finish at 839 pence, Anglo American ended 3% down to 2,066 pence, Antofagasta fell 2.6% to 1,046 pence, and BHP Billiton dropped 1.7% to 1,770 pence.
But positive results sent the retail sector upwards during the week. Home Retail, owner of the U.K.'s Argos and Homebase chains, gained 18% to 83 pence on good annual results. But electronics retailer Dixons Retail did even better, after its results boosted the stock by 33%, to 17.3 pence.
Fashion chain Supergroup also regained some lost ground, rising 18% to 316 pence, after Swedish fashion chain H&M posted an increase in sales.
German fallers included chemicals giant BASF, which fell 3% to 54.10 euros, and auto maker Volkswagen, down 2% to 121 euros. Siemens also fell, losing 1.3% to 65.70 euros, after talks of a takeover of the U.K.'s Invensys were quashed -- Siemens had been tipped as a potential buyer.
On the positive side, Daimler gained 2.9% to 38.10 euros, with HeidelbergCement up 2.8% to 35.92 euros.
In France, the week saw electronics manufacturer STMicroelectronics pick up 7% to 4.43 euros, with steelmaker Vallourec gaining 6% to 28.59 euros, and telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent up 5% to 1.30 euros.
Danone led the fallers, down 8.4% to 47.72 euros, with Total dropping 2.9% to 34.41 euros.
Finally, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett has spent more than $1 billion buying the shares of one of the U.K.'s most successful large caps. Clearly, he thinks there are bargains to be had within Britain's FTSE 100, and you can discover the details of his investment -- including the price he paid -- by reading this free report.
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