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European stocks edge higher on Spain data, eyes on U.S.; Dax up 0.24%

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Shutterstock photo - European stocks edged higher on Friday, after upbeat Spanish manufacturing data, although investors remained cautious amid concerns over final U.S. budget talks and as worries over the political deadlock in Italy continued to weigh.

During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 edged up 0.13%, France's CAC 40 rose 0.20%, while Germany's DAX 30 added 0.24%.

Markit research group said that Spain's manufacturing purchasing managers' index improved to 46.8 in February from a reading of 46.1 the previous month, beating expectations for a rise to 46.5.

But investors remained cautious amid fears Italy would not be able to continue to implement economic reforms following inconclusive election results.

Markets were also jittery after U.S. after Republicans and Democrats failed on Thursday to agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan, putting the country on the path towards USD85 billion in automatic budget cuts.

U.S. President Barack Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House for last minute negotiations before the 11.59pm deadline on Friday.

Financial stocks were broadly lower, as French lenders Societe Generale and BNP Paribas fell 0.17% and 0.49%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank tumbled 1.88% and 0.57% respectively.

Peripheral lenders added to losses, with Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA dropping 0.37% and 0.24%, while Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit declined 0.24% and 0.82%.

Elsewhere, Spanish builder ACS added 0.16, even after posting a loss of EUR1.93 billion for 2012, exceeding analysts' estimates. The company said the disposal of its stake in Iberdrola SA led to a charge of EUR1.31 billion.

In London, FTSE 100 inched up 0.05%, as markets eyed the release of U.K. manufacturing data later in the day.

U.K. lenders tracked their European counterparts broadly lower, as shares in HSBC Holdings declined 0.47% and Barclays retreated 0.41%, while Lloyds Banking and the Royal Bank of Scotland plummeted 2.26% and 2.59% respectively.

Mining stocks were also on the downside, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto plunging 0.80% and 1.23%, while copper producers Xstrata and Kazakhmys dove 3.40% and 4.20%

On the upside, WPP Plc added 0.09%, after the world's largest advertising company said earnings rose 7.1% last year as profit margins improved after the business increased investment in digital and emerging markets.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a steady open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.04% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.07% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.05% gain.

Also Friday, official data showed that German retail sales rose 3.1% in January, beating expectations for a 1% increase, after a 2.1% decline the previous month.

Later in the day, the euro zone was to release official data on consumer price inflation.

The U.S. was to release a report from the Institute of Supply Management on manufacturing activity, official data on personal spending and revised data on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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