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European stocks mixed, investors digest China data

A broker at the Frankfurt stock exchange on September 6, 2012. European shares were mixed on Friday as investors mulled Chinese growth data that beat expectations but marked the slowest rate of expansion for 13 years.

European shares were mixed on Friday as investors mulled Chinese growth data that beat expectations but marked the slowest rate of expansion for 13 years.

London's FTSE 100 index of top companies gained 0.55 percent to 6,166.09 points in afternoon deals, despite official data which revealed falling British retail sales during December.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index added 0.22 percent to 3,752.53 points, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 index reversed opening gains to stand 0.17 percent lower at 7,722.61 points.

In foreign exchange deals, the European single currency eased to $1.3319 from $1.3375 late in New York on Thursday. On the London Bullion Market, gold prices increased to $1,690 an ounce from $1,675.

"European markets opened fractionally higher, on the back of the Chinese data" that suggested enough signs of growth to avert a "feared hard landing of the world's second largest economy," said analyst Anita Paluch at trading group Gekko Global Markets.

"The markets are not moving too much though; China may have beaten the blues and caught up on the growth, but it is still the slowest growth since 1999."

Asian shares posted strong gains Friday after China released data showing a strong pick-up in the economy for the past four months, while Japanese stocks were boosted by another fall in the yen.

Tokyo soared 2.86 percent, Hong Kong rose 1.12 percent, Seoul added 0.69 percent and Shanghai put on 1.41 percent.

Beijing said the world's number two economy expanded by 7.8 percent in 2012, better than the government target of 7.5 percent, marking a second straight year of easing owing to weakness in key overseas markets.

It also said gross domestic product grew 7.9 percent in the October-December period, snapping seven straight quarters of slowing growth.

Economists surveyed by AFP had projected GDP growth of 7.7 percent in 2012 and 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter.

The figures reinforce recent indications that the Chinese economy will not come crashing down, but rather that it is emerging from a drawn-out slumber that has had a knock-on effect on activity in other countries.

Miners were boosted by news of solid growth in China, which is a major consumer of raw materials.

In London, Kazakhmys shares gained 1.22 percent to 785.50 pence, BHP Billiton added 0.36 percent to 2,069 pence and Anglo American won 0.71 percent to 1,905.5 pence.

Rio Tinto rebounded by 2.44 percent to 3,523.5 pence. The stock had fallen Thursday after the resignation of chief executive Tom Albanese following shock news of a huge $14-billion (10.5-billion-euro) write-down on assets.

"Fourth-quarter GDP in China picked up, lifting commodity prices in overnight action -- resource stocks in Europe are benefitting on the back of this," said strategist Ishiq Siddiqi at trading group ETX Capital.

US stocks opened mixed with earnings disappointments, especially from Intel, and Boeing's 787 problems weighed on the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.09 percent to 13,608.802 points after five minutes into trading.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.12 percent to 1,479.12 points and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 0.29 percent to 3,126.85 points.

Chipmaker Intel sank 5.6 percent after a poor fourth-quarter earnings report, with a 31 percent drop in profit.

General Electric added 2.3 percent after reporting a 7.5 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit, with chief executive Jeffrey Immelt expressing measured confidence for 2013.

AT&T fell 0.5 percent following its after-trade announcement Thursday that it would take a $10 billion charge on fourth-quarter earnings to account for a sharp cut in its forecast earnings at its pension fund, due to lower interest rates.

Boeing, facing more trouble over its 787 aircraft, fell back 0.5 percent following Thursday's 1.2 percent rebound.