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European stocks close mixed, euro gains against the dollar

LONDON — European stock markets turned in mixed performances in choppy trade on Wednesday as traders tracked comments regarding the eurozone debt crisis and the single currency rose against the dollar.

Markets had posted gains early in the day but fell back in the afternoon before the International Monetary Fund said it would raise $500 billion to help fight the debt crisis.

At the close, London’s FTSE 100 was 0.15 percent higher at 5,671.10 points, while in Paris the CAC 40 slid 0.15 percent to 3,264.93 points and Frankfurt’s DAX 30 was up by 0.34 percent at 6,354.57 points.

Milan finished down 0.31 percent and Madrid shed 1.34 percent.

In New York, the Dow Jones Industrials Average was 0.35 percent stronger at 12,526.23 points in midday trading, while the broader S&P 500 Index was up by 0.48 percent at 1,299.88 points.

The Nasdaq Composite of tech stocks showed a gain of 0.79 percent at 2,749.54 points.

The IMF’s confirmation that it aimed to bolster resources for intervening in financial crises boosted hopes that the eurozone’s chronic problems would not scupper the global economy.

Also helping US stocks were positive readings on US industrial production in December (up 0.4 percent) and wholesale inflation (down 0.1 percent). Meanwhile, the euro jumped to $1.2823 in London from $1.2737 in New York late Tuesday. The dollar was stable at 76.81 yen.

“A successful two year German auction, as well as a successful three month Portuguese T-bill auction, has boosted sentiment towards the single currency,” CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson commented.

Overnight, the World Bank had slashed its global economic growth forecasts and warned that rich nations’ debt problems might yet spark a crisis that would eclipse the tumult of 2008.

But Germany was set to return to growth in the first quarter of 2012 after slumping in the last three months of last year, its Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said on Wednesday, ruling out a recession in Europe’s powerhouse.

The World Bank projected global growth of 2.5 percent in 2012 and 3.1 percent in 2013 — sharply lower than previous estimates of 3.6 percent for both years.

“The world economy has entered a very difficult phase characterized by significant downside risks and fragility,” its twice-yearly Global Economic Prospects report said. It also warned that “the world could be thrown in a recession as large or even larger than that of 2008/09.”

In Germany, Economy Minister Roesler said he expected the country to record growth of 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012 after a contraction of 0.3 percent in the final quarter of last year, therefore ruling out a recession.

Berlin downgraded its estimate for the whole of 2012 however to 0.7 percent from a previous estimate of 1.0 percent. But after what Roesler termed a “temporary dip in growth,” the German economy was likely to grow by 1.6 percent next year, driven mainly by domestic demand, said the forecasts. “There can be no talk of recession,” Roesler stressed.

As talks between Greek leaders and private creditors resumed in Athens, a finance ministry source there told AFP that Athens “expected a positive result by this weekend at the latest.”

The source did not rule out an accord “even by this evening” after Charles Dallara, head of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), met with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

An agreement with banks and other institutional investors would open the way for a separate deal on funding from the IMF and EU peers, and help calm market fears of a wider crisis within the 17-nation eurozone.

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