FRANKFURT -- Stocks posted mild declines, pressured by concern about rising U.S. bond rates, slowing European economic growth and political and labor struggles in Germany.
But high levels of liquidity cushioned what otherwise might have been a larger fall. And the weaker euro, though reflecting gloom, nonetheless also served to support markets, giving exporters here a competitive advantage.
By early afternoon, most indices were off morning lows. In Frankfurt, the
was down 52 points, or 1.1%, at 4726, while in London the
was down 20 at 6040 and in Paris the
was down 6 at 4025.
Dutch business software firm
fell 5.4% after reporting disappointing fourth-quarter results and a cautious 1999 outlook. French automaker
slipped 5.4% after warning of profit pressures this year.
And in London, support services company,
crumbled 7.1% on worse-than-expected earnings, which it blames in part on strength in sterling and economic woes in Asia.
French telecom equipment maker
agreed to buy a U.S. rival,
for about $2 billion. Investors were pleased with Alcatel's attempt to build up its U.S. presence, with shares rising 4.1%.
The market is starting to focus on the Thursday meeting of the
European Central Bank's
policymaking Governing Council. But the chances for an easing Thursday and in coming months are looking slim, with several central bankers this week saying current levels are appropriate. Although this is no
surprise to readers of
, the broad market is only now coming around to this view, which was reflected in a front-page story today in the