(RTTNews.com) - The European markets ended Friday's session with mixed results, but finished the overall trading week in the red. There were few catalysts to drive the direction of trading at the end of the week. Investors concerns over when the Federal Reserve will begin tapering its stimulus measures persisted and will likely continue to do so until the Fed concludes its policy meeting on Wednesday next week.
Standard & Poor's on Friday affirmed Italy's sovereign ratings citing its wealthy and diversified economy and robust external balance sheet. However, the rating outlook remains negative suggesting at least a one-in-three chance of a downward in the next 12 months.
S&P said the ratings remained constrained by weak growth prospects and the net general government debt burden continues to be among the highest of all the rated sovereigns.
Standard and Poor's Ratings Services on Friday confirmed its rating on the Luxembourg economy at 'AAA/A-1+', saying that the government's net asset position and strong administrative institutions will help absorb economic and fiscal challenges facing the country.
The agency also maintained the Stable outlook on the economy. This reflects its view that Luxembourg's strong government balance sheet, wealthy population, and stable political environment would outweigh risks to the economy.
Standard and Poor's on Friday downgraded its outlook on Bulgaria's sovereign credit ratings, citing weak economic growth prospects and a worrying political situation.
The outlook on Bulgaria's sovereign ratings was revised down to 'negative' from 'stable'. The rating agency, at the same time, affirmed its 'BBB/A-2' long- and short-term ratings.
In a statement, S&P said the 'negative' outlook indicated that there is at least a one-in-three possibility of lowering the ratings within the next two years, if the political environment deteriorates, weighing on already-weak growth prospects.
The U.K. housing market recovery has spread across all regions of the nation, but it is too early to intervene in the market to avoid a bubble, Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England's executive director for financial stability told a regional BBC Radio.
"Now would not be the time to be slamming on the brakes on the housing market or any other market," Haldane said. "We are in the very early phase of recovery," he added.
Housing market activity is gaining momentum from the economic upturn, low interest rate and improvement in the labor market. Moreover, government's Help to Buy scheme boosted confidence.
The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks declined by 0.17 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, lost 0.18 percent.
The DAX of Germany dropped by 0.12 percent and the SMI of Switzerland decreased 0.26 percent. The CAC 40 of France tumbled by 0.23 percent and the FTSE 100 of the U.K. fell by 0.08 percent.
In Frankfurt, RWE declined by 1.38 percent. Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to ''Neutral'' from ''Buy.''
Publishing firm Axel Springer dropped by 1.22 percent. The stock was downgraded to ''Neutral'' from ''Overweight'' at HSBC.
In Paris, Vivendi finished up by 0.25 percent. The company's unit GVT and US-based EchoStar Corp. are no longer in discussions to form a joint venture for pay TV services in Brazil.
Peugeot sank by 12.09 percent, after General Motors said it would sell its entire 7 percent stake in the car maker.
In London, ARM Holdings increased by 2.98 percent. Bloomberg reported that Google may use technology from ARM to design its own server processors.
AstraZeneca climbed by 1.75 percent. The drug-maker said a late-stage study showed that its investigational agent lesinurad met its primary goal in gout patients.
RSA Insurance said it expects further reduction in expected earnings for 2013 due to the impact of Irish reserve strengthening and the storms in Europe last week. The company also announced the resignation of CEO Simon Lee with immediate effect. The stock plummeted by 7.31 percent.
UBS upgraded its rating on the mining sector to "Overweight" from "Neutral." Glencore Xstrata increased by 0.28 percent and Fresnillo gained 0.21 percent. Randgold Resources climbed by 1.75 percent and BHP Billiton added 0.17 percent.
UBS also downgraded its rating on the oil and gas sector to "Neutral" from "Overweight." BP declined by 1.07 percent and Royal Dutch Shell lost 0.82 percent.
Synectics, which issued a trading update, fell by 5.00 percent.
Centrica dipped by 0.58 percent, after Societe Generale downgraded it to "Hold" from "Buy."
Goldman Sachs downgraded electric utility Iberdrola to ''Sell'' from ''Neutral.'' The stock is finished up by 0.27 percent in Madrid.
Employment in the euro area stayed unchanged for the second successive quarter in the three months to September, data released by statistical office Eurostat revealed Friday. At the end of the third quarter, the seasonally adjusted number of employed persons in the currency bloc was unchanged from the preceding three-month period. In the second quarter also there was no change in the employment level.
Germany's wholesale prices declined for a fourth consecutive month in November, data from the Federal Statistical Office showed Friday. The wholesale price index fell 2.2 percent year-on-year in November following a 2.7 percent decline in October. On a monthly basis, prices dropped 0.2 percent in November.
Spain's public debt increased to a record 93.4 percent of gross domestic product in the third quarter, the Bank of Spain said Friday. Debt stays slightly below the year-end target of 94.2 percent. Debt increased from 92.2 percent in the second quarter and 90 percent in the first quarter. The government expects the debt-to-GDP ratio peaking at 101 percent in 2015.
U.K. construction output recovered in October, boosting hopes of strong recovery in the fourth quarter, the Office for National Statistics said Friday. Construction output gained 2.2 percent month-on-month, after declining 0.5 percent in September. The growth was driven by the strength in new work, and repair and maintenance.
Confidence among Britons regarding the prices of their homes increased in December to the highest level in five years, data from a survey conducted by Markit Economics and Knight Frank revealed Friday. The headline house price sentiment index, which measures households' views of the changes in their property prices over the previous month, rose to 59.4 in December from 57.8 in November, hitting the highest level in five years.
With energy prices continuing to fall following a steep drop in the previous month, the Labor Department released a report on Friday showing a modest decrease in producer prices in the month of November. The Labor Department said its producer price index edged down by 0.1 percent in November following a 0.2 percent drop in October. The modest decrease matched economist estimates.
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