European stocks end lower

LONDON (AP) - European shares lost ground Thursday, weighed down by mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton on concerns China will hike interest rates, overshadowing positive margin news from mobile phone giant Nokia and hopes for pharmaceutical-sector earnings. 

The German DAX Xetra 30 index declined 0.5 percent to 7,242.73, the French CAC-40 index lost 0.1 percent to 5,829.04 and the U.K. FTSE 100 index declined 0.1 percent to 6,440.60. 

After China's economy grew 11.1 percent, investors were concerned that the country's authorities may tighten interest rates. 

David Buik, of spreadbetting firm Cantor Index, said that the mining sector could be affected by a change in Chinese monetary policy. 

"If the cost of borrowing is going up, then that could temporarily stop China importing copper, iron ore and coal at current price levels,'' he noted. 

Miners Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Anglo American were all down around 1 percent. 

Exporting automakers DaimlerChrysler and Porsche declined by more than 1.5 percent each as investors worried about possible further dollar weakness.  

The euro traded near record highs against the dollar, and sterling held over US$2. 

Stronger-than-expected earnings from Merck helped to limit losses in the U.S. equity markets.  

European drugmakers AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline each improved more than 1 percent. 

Shares in mobile phone giant Nokia rose 3.5 percent after the world's largest maker of mobile phones posted market share gains and a better-than-expected gross margin. 

Nokia also said that its first-quarter net profit slipped nearly 7 percent, in line with analyst expectations. 

U.K. insurer Prudential gained 1.6 percent after it said its first-quarter insurance new business rose 8 percent on an annual premium equivalent basis, including a 25 percent rise in retail insurance. 

Schneider Electric shares gained 4.9 percent after the electricity controls company lifted its organic growth target to 8 percent after its first-quarter sales climbed 22.4 percent. 

Shares in Swiss-American mouse maker Logitech dropped 8.3 percent after the company said that it missed its fiscal year revenue growth target of 17 percent due to slower webcam sales. 

Utility RWE lost 3.7 percent after a report that it may have to delay the initial public offering of its American Water unit.  

RWE shares also started trading without rights to the latest dividend payout. 

Shares in Spanish builder Sacyr Vallehermoso rose 2.5 percent after it launched an all-share takeover bid for Eiffage, valuing its French rival at around euro9.8 billion (US$13.3 billion). Eiffage dropped 5.1 percent. 

Iberia shares lost 1.3 percent after UBS cut the Spanish airline to neutral from buy, saying it faces increased competition on domestic and medium-haul routes. 

BP shares lost 0.4 percent after the oil giant was downgraded to neutral from buy at Merrill Lynch. 

The broker cited valuation after the shares rallied around 13 percent in four weeks. 

Latest business news from AP-Wire

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