European stocks drop as Frankfurt says bye to 2012

European stock markets dropped and the euro fell versus the dollar on Friday, the final trading day of the year for the Frankfurt index, which has soared in 2012 despite economic strains in the eurozone and United States.

Equities were downbeat in the absence of a deal to avert the US "fiscal cliff" of sharp tax hikes and spending cuts, analysts said, after staging a sustained rally in late 2012 on eurozone debt progress and fresh stimulus measures by the US Federal Reserve.

London's FTSE 100 index of top companies ended the week with a loss of 0.49 percent at 5,925.37 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 fell 0.57 percent to 7,612.39 points, though it ended the year with an overall gain of more than 29 percent.

In Paris, the CAC 40 dropped by 1.47 percent to 3,620.25 points, in part on profit-taking after earlier reaching its highest level for the year.

The markets in London and Paris will hold half sessions on Monday.

In Milan the FTSE Mib index was down by 0.82 percent at 16,273 points, and in Madrid the Ibex 35 shed 1.81 percent to 8,131 points.

On Wall Street, US stocks slumped in midday trades as well, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by 0.50 percent, the broader S&P 500 off by 0.48 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dipping 0.30 percent.

Markets fear that if US President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers do not reach a compromise before a budget deadline arrives on January 1, the world's biggest economy might head back into recession.

"Hopes for a budget agreement prior to January 1 are fading," said's Dick Green. "Uncertainty remains very high and time very short."

Back in France, the national statistics agency INSEE on Friday revised its figure for the country's third quarter economic growth down from 0.2 percent to 0.1 percent, making the government's full-year target harder to reach.

In foreign exchange deals, the euro fell to $1.3211 from $1.3235 late in New York on Thursday. Gold prices rose to $1,657.50 an ounce on the London Bullion Market from $1,655.50 late on Thursday.

US politicians have until Tuesday to come up with a deficit-cutting budget that is less painful than the steep tax hikes and swingeing spending cuts that would otherwise take effect.

With time counting down, Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other for the lack of progress on a deal, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying: "I have to be very honest, I don't know time-wise how it can happen now."

Obama cut short his Christmas holiday to Hawaii to host top congressional leaders on Friday in a last-ditch bid to find an agreement.

Across in Asia, Tokyo's main index on Friday closed at their highest point since last year's quake-tsunami, ending 2012 up almost 23 percent year-on-year as Japan's new government pledges to turn around the long-suffering economy.

Elsewhere on Friday, Italian borrowing rates rose slightly in a five- to ten-year debt auction, as the government raised close to 6.0 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in its last bond sale of 2012.

The Treasury raised 2.87 billion euros in five-year bonds, at a rate of 3.26 percent compared with 3.23 percent at the last comparable operation in November, and 3.0 billion euros in 10-year bonds at 4.48 percent, up from 4.45 percent, the Bank of Italy said.

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