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European stocks end week down on Ukraine jitters

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

European stock markets dropped on Friday after rising most of the week in reaction to upbeat earnings and data, with traders taking profits amid lingering unease over the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Wall Street was also on the back foot, with investors worried about the rising tensions in Ukraine, and assessing varied US company results.

The euro maintained its momentum against the dollar after a pick-up on Thursday fuelled by a healthy consumer confidence reading from Germany.

Traders said foreign exchange markets believed the European Central Bank would not ease monetary policy soon to counter any risk of deflation, and that they were waiting for a US monetary policy decision next week.

London's FTSE 100 fell 0.26 percent from Thursday's close to end the week at 6.685.69 points.

Germany's DAX 30 slumped 1.54 percent to 9,401.55 points, while the CAC-40 in Paris shed 0.80 percent to 4,443.63.

European stock markets had closed on an upbeat note on Thursday as traders reacted to a string of earnings updates, data pointing to further easing of eurozone economic strains, and fresh takeover speculation.

In New York, the Dow Jones index was trading down 0.89 percent and the Nasdaq also losing 1.46 percent.

"European markets have continued their decline past the US open... as worries in Ukraine continue to affect global market risk," said Sam Fox, an analyst at Spreadex.

The benchmark price of WTI oil eased $1.15 to $100.71 per barrel. Traders said that the market was waiting to see how the Ukraine situation and possible sanctions affecting energy markets evolved.

"It's been a very good couple of weeks for the markets, which have been buoyed by stronger than expected earnings reports from Europe and the US," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari traders.

"While there may be an element of profit taking driving markets lower today, I think a bigger contributing factor is the recent flare up in eastern Ukraine and the war of words now taking place between the US and Russia."

Western powers led by US President Barack Obama warned that Russia faced fresh sanctions over Ukraine as Kiev accused Moscow of seeking to trigger a "third world war".

US Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile said that the Kremlin is making an "expensive mistake" by meddling in Ukraine and Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade its credit rating to one notch above junk status suggested Moscow was already feeling the pinch.

- Alstom trade halted -

Trading in shares in French engineering group Alstom was suspended, a day after the stock had surged on rumours of a bid by US giant General Electric (GE).

On Thursday the price of shares in Alstom, which builds power stations and high-speed trains, shot up 10.93 percent to 27.0 euros.

The surge followed a report by financial news agency Bloomberg that GE, which is far bigger than Alstom, was in advanced talks to make a takeover offer valuing its target at about $13 billion (9.4 billion euros).

The French government said it was taking a "patriotic" view of the issues surrounding any such bid and was working on alternative solutions for Alstom.

In foreign exchange deals on Friday, the euro rose to $1.3842 from $1.3830 in New York late Thursday.

It slipped to 141.27 yen from 141.53.

The European single currency was steady at 82.34 British pence from 82.31 pence, while the pound gained to $1.6811 from $1.6801 on Thursday.

On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold edged up to $1,301.25 an ounce from $1,291.50 on Thursday.

Asian markets closed mostly lower on Friday, with another upbeat lead from Wall Street overshadowed by concerns about Ukraine.

US shares had ended mostly higher on Thursday following another round of impressive corporate results as well as a second strong month of durable goods orders in March.

The figures indicated the economy is rebounding from its winter slump.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140425/european-stocks-end-week-down-ukraine-jitters