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The Deal: European Stocks Recover Slightly but Mood Remains Cautious

LONDON ( The Deal) -- European markets recovered somewhat in morning trading Wednesday, after a soft start, although the mood remained cautious. Sentiment was helped by relatively strong service sector figures from Markit's purchasing managers' indices. The figures were not as strong as previously hoped, and definitely less bullish than the industry PMIs released on Monday, but there was still hope that a strong January presaged economic growth in the coming year.

Spain, in particular, did well, showing its first growth in employment since February 2008. Now the markets are watching for statistics from the U.S., starting Wednesday with the ISM non-manufacturing survey and the ADP private sector employment report.
In Switzerland, good figures from fun-styles watchmaker Swatch, including a 20% increase in net profit pushed the stock up over 4.5% and helped raise the market there, while in London RSA Insurance, recently damaged by an accounting scandal in its Irish business, rose over 3% on the appointment of a new chief executive. He is former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Stephen Hester, who led the effort to clean up the state-owned lender until his ouster last year. But online broker Hargreaves Lansdowne, though boosted by its impressive roll of new investors who bought shares in last year's Royal Mail IPO, was brought low by lower-than-expected profit figures, due to low net interest income on cash. The stock was down over 6% by mid-morning.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was pulled down by weaker-than-expected revenue in neighboring Macau's gambling strip. Investors were unwilling to place Year of the Horse bets on casino industry heavy hitters, Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment and SJM Holdings. But Japan closed up slightly, once again on a weaker yen.

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