European Stocks Slide Amid Weak Confidence and Manufacturing Data

LONDON -- European stocks are seeing another day of weakness Thursday, adding to losses before the Wall Street open after data on European executive and consumer confidence showed that sentiment has fallen to the lowest levels since 2009. This followed news earlier in the day that German unemployment increased for the fifth consecutive month, while overnight, Japan posted a worse-than-expected fall in retail sales, and manufacturer confidence in South Korea held at the lowest level in three years.

Despite a decent 10-year bond sale in Italy today, which saw the government raise 7.3 billion euros with a reasonable decline in rates to 5.82%, peripheral countries are still seeing some of the weakest performance today, with the Spanish IBEX (INDEX: ^IBEX  ) down 1.1%.

As always, the following price moves are based on this morning's European trading.

Luxury Italian shoe and accessory maker Ferragamo (NASDAQOTH: SFRGF.PK) is down more than 4% today, with falling demand in China casting a shadow over what was actually a strong earnings report. The company said demand in Europe increased despite the recession, reporting first-half earnings up 25% and saying it expects 2012 revenue growth to be significant.

The company said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization jumped to 104.7 million euros, narrowly beating analyst estimates of around 104 million euros, while sales rose 23% to 565.1 million euros. The company said that the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, accounted for almost 40% of its first-half revenue.

The German unemployment data hit the country's industrial and manufacturing stocks hard this morning, with automakers among the worst performing sectors. Daimler (NASDAQOTH: DDAIF.PK) is leading losses, down 3.6% despite saying earlier this week that due to increasing demand in emerging markets, it will now be producing sport-utility vehicles in these countries, including the Mercedes Benz M-Class to be manufactured in India.

On a more positive note, French supermarket giant Carrefour (NASDAQOTH: CRRFY.PK) is up almost 10% today after it reported expectation-beating earnings today. The company said first-half profit declined 8.2%, much better than expected, thanks to increasing sales in Latin America offsetting slowing European demand. The company said recurring operating income fell to 769 million euros from 838 million euros, besting analyst estimates of about 705 million euros.

Meanwhile, the Finnish phone maker Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) is once again making strong moves, rebounding from yesterday's short-lived sell-off to climb more than 2% today as the potential recall of rival firm Samsung's phones in the U.S. -- following the U.S. District Court ruling that it did in fact breach patents -- benefits Nokia ahead of the expected release next week of its latest smartphone.

As always, this morning's European news saw some winners and losers -- and perhaps some European buying opportunities. Indeed, legendary investor Warren Buffett has recently spent more than $1 billion buying the stock of a prominent European large cap. If you want to know why Buffett has bought into Europe, this special Motley Fool report -- "The One European Share Warren Buffett Loves" -- reveals everything, including the price he paid. You can download the report today for free, but hurry -- the report is available for a limited time only.

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Karl Loomes does not own any share mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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