ECONOMY

Europe stocks little changed after 4-day gain

European stocks halted a four-day rally that took them to a seven-year high.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped less than 0.1 percent to 355.8 at 11:27 a.m. in London, with the Swiss Market Index falling 1.6 percent after a two-day rebound.

The Stoxx 600 rallied 4.8 percent in the past four days, closing at its highest level since January 2008, on optimism that the European Central Bank will step up stimulus measures at its Jan. 22 meeting. President Mario Draghi will announce a 550 billion-euro ($637 billion) bond-purchase program, economists surveyed by Bloomberg News forecast. The Swiss National Bank’s unexpected move to abandon its currency peg against the euro last week increased speculation of an ECB government-bond buying plan.

“Investors are readjusting their expectations ahead of tomorrow’s ECB meeting,” Ralf Zimmermann, an equity strategist at Bankhaus Lampe KG in Dusseldorf, Germany, said in a phone interview. “We’ve seen a significant rebound in markets. There are some downside risks.”

The SMI posted the second-biggest decline among 18 national benchmark equity gauges as the nation’s currency strengthened. Drugmakers Novartis AG and Roche Holding AG fell more than 2.5 percent. Greece’s ASE Index slid 1.9 percent for a second day of losses as the country prepares for an election on Jan. 25.

The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index gained 0.7 percent after minutes from the Bank of England’s last meeting showed two policy makers dropped their call for an interest-rate increase this month.

Drugmakers Fall

The decline in Swiss drugmakers sent health-care companies down the most out of 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600, falling 0.7 percent from a record. Commodity producers slid 0.5 percent. The volume of Stoxx 600 shares changing hands was 22 percent greater than the 30-day average, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Among companies moving on corporate news, Dutch chipmaker ASML Holding NV climbed 3.5 percent after forecasting first- quarter sales that topped analysts’ estimates and announcing a new 1 billion-euro share buyback program.

Alstom SA advanced 3.8 percent after posting an increase in third-quarter revenue. The French company selling its energy- equipment businesses to General Electric Co. also reiterated its forecasts for sales growth and operating margin.

SABMiller Plc added 1.7 percent as an increase in revenue from Africa and Europe helped mitigate an unexpected drop in third-quarter beer volume.

In the U.S., data may show an improving economy, with housing starts up 1.2 percent in December, economists forecast. They dropped in November for the first time since August. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures were little changed.