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Eurozone recovery boosts markets

European markets posted modest gains today as signs of a tentative recovery for the region's beleaguered economy shored up confidence.

The 17-nation eurozone bloc, which came out of recession at the beginning of last year, posted GDP growth of 0.3% in the final quarter of 2013, compared with 0.1% in the previous three month period and forecasts for a rise of 0.2%.

Markets in Frankfurt and Paris rose by around 0.5%, although the boost from Britain's major trading partner failed to lift the FTSE 100 Index, which was just 2.9 points higher at 6662.4.

Germany's output rose 0.4% in the final quarter of 2013 following a boost for its exporters, while the French economy grew by 0.3% in the same period.

The updates came a day after it emerged retail sales in the United States dropped for a second straight month as people spent less on cars and clothing.

The pound reflected the stronger pace of the UK economic recovery as it climbed to 1.67 against the US dollar for the first time since April 2011.

Mining stocks dominated the FTSE 100 risers board after full-year results from Anglo American showing a 7% slide in underlying earnings to 2.7 billion US dollars (£1.6 billion) came in ahead of market expectations.

Anglo's shares were 7.5p higher at 1541p, while BHP Billiton added 28p to 1899p and Antofagasta lifted 22p to 927.5p.

Morrisons was the biggest faller in the top flight after this week's latest disappointing market share figures from Kantar Worldpanel prompted a ratings downgrade from analysts at Exane BNP Paribas.

They also lowered their target price from 230p to 200p and said the supermarket chain's dividend no longer looked secure. Kantar's till-roll figures showed Morrisons sales were down 2.5% in the 12 weeks to February 2.

Morrisons shares fell 2% or 4.75p at 231.35p, while Sainsbury's lost 5p to 347p.

Other fallers included Vodafone after it said it will pay £1.9 billion on additional spectrum licences to boost mobile services in India. Shares fell 2.5p to 218.9p.

Elsewhere, shares in Severn Trent were 24p higher at 1774p as it said there was currently no material financial impact from the floods which have affected large parts of its region.

It said its trading performance for the year to March 31 had been in line with expectations, with consumption slightly higher than a year earlier and bad debt levels maintained at around 2.2% of turnover.

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