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MENAFN - AFP - 04/02/2013

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(MENAFN - AFP) European stock markets fell and the euro dropped versus the dollar on Monday as traders banked recent profits amid political tensions in Spain and ahead of regional interest rate decisions due this week.London's FTSE 100 index of top companies slipped 0.31 percent to stand at 6,327.78 points in late morning deals. Frankfurt's DAX dipped 0.12 percent to 7,824.32 points and in Paris the CAC lost 0.14 percent to 3,768.40.Madrid's IBEX 35 decreased by 0.36 percent in value to trade at 8,200.40 points, while Milan's FTSEMIB slumped 1.35 percent.Most European stock markets had posted strong gains Friday on reassuring US jobs data, but Madrid was hit by news of falling profits at the country's crisis-hit banks, dealers said."European markets opened cautiously today... as investors opted to cash in on last Friday's thundering finish to the trading week," said Spreadex trader Shavaz Dhalla.European markets have been buoyed since the start of the year by strong economic data out of Germany and news that banks are speeding up repayment of emergency loans to the European Central Bank."The true test for optimism will be whether the markets can sustain the recent highs in the face of a potential string of poor data from the eurozone," said Dhalla."If such optimism fails to stand the test of time, investors could find themselves swimming in a 'sea of volatility'," he added.Figures released Monday showed the number of Spaniards officially registered as unemployed rose to 4.98 million in January.The data comes a day after the leader of Spain's opposition Socialist party called on the country's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign amid a damaging corruption scandal.Spain's centre-left newspaper El Pais published account ledgers purportedly showing that donations were channelled into secret payments to Rajoy and other top party officials.Rajoy has dismissed the ledgers as false and has vehemently denies receiving any payments.The bad economic and political news sent Spanish government bond borrowing costs higher. The rate of return on Spanish government 10-year bonds rose to 5.42 percent in trading on the secondary market, up from 5.208 percent on Friday.Italian 10-year government bond rates held steady, as did German. French 10-year government bond rates rose to 2.28 percent from 2.25 percent on Friday.Amid more eurozone strains, the European single currency slid to 1.3582 in trading Monday from 1.3637 on Friday, when the euro had reached a 14-month high at 1.3711.Gold prices fell to 1,664.42 an ounce from 1,669 on the London Bullion Market last Friday.In company news Monday, airlines were in focus after mixed earnings updates from carriers based outside of Europe.Japan Airlines on Monday said net profit in the nine months to December fell to 1.52 billion, but it lifted its full-year profit forecast by more than 16 percent despite recent Dreamliner woes.Etihad Airways, the fast-growing carrier of Abu Dhabi, posted a 200-percent surge in net profit in 2012.Shares in IAG, parent of British Airways and Spain's Iberia were up 0.19-percent to 214 pence in London deals. Germany's Lufthansa fell 0.41 percent to 14.74 euros and Air France-KLM shed 1.28 percent to 8.12 euros.Shares in Commerzbank fell 0.62 percent to 1.60 euros after Germany's second-biggest bank, said Monday its full-year net profit tumbled to just 6.0 million euros in 2012 after heavy writedowns pushed it into the red in the fourth quarter.Commerzbank said it booked a total 980 million euros in one-off charges for 2012 as a whole, but that underlying earnings as measured by operating profit increased to 1.2 billion euros in 2012 from 507 million euros.Asian stock markets ended mixed Monday on profit-taking after gains fuelled by the upbeat jobs data out of the United States before the weekend, traders said.Tokyo closed 0.62-percent higher to hit a 33-month high at 11,260.35 points, while Seoul slipped 0.23 percent and Sydney fell 0.28 percent.


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