Europe close: Consumer confidence at historical low

- US fiscal cliff fears continue to shake market - EU says consumer confidence at historical low - IMF says EU must continue bank plans to overcome debt

- US fiscal cliff fears continue to shake market

- EU says consumer confidence at historical low

- IMF says EU must continue bank plans to overcome debt

FTSE 100: -0.05%

Dxa-30: 0.05%

Cac-40: 0.06%

FTSE Mibtel 30: 0.41%

Ibex 35: 0%

Stoxx 600: 0.06%

European equities remained little changed at the close on Thursday as global investors reduced holdings amid US budget concerns.

Negotiations over the US budget have continued to sway the market as the government tries to reach a deal to prevent the world's biggest economy falling off the fiscal cliff.

The troubles facing the superpower have done little to help the Eurozone which has reported a reduction in consumer sentiment in the face of rising unemployment.

The European Commission said Thursday its monthly survey revealed consumer confidence in the 17 nations sharing the euro was at 26.6 in December, a very low level by historical standards with the average going back to 1990 at minus 13.0.

Weak confidence saw consumers hold back or cut their spending which was down 1.3% in the three months to September compared to the same period in 2011.

In an assessment of the European Union's financial sector, the International Monetary Fund said the 27-nations must complete the plan to create a banking union, improve stress testing of banks and separate bank and sovereign risk to overcome the sovereign debt and bank crisis.

"The crisis reveals that handling financial system problems at the national level has been costly, calling for a Europe-wide approach," preliminary conclusions of the IMF report said.

Berlusconi says Italy could be forced to leave euro

Italy's ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the country may need to leave the euro if Germany refuses to allow the European Central Bank (ECB) to assist troubled economies.

Berlusconi said the ECB should become a lender of last resort for the currency bloc. He announced he would again lead his People of Freedom party (PDL) in a national election expected in February.

SBM Offshore takes hits on Norwegian platform

SBM Offshore climbed to its highest in nine months as it sought to settle the on-going dispute over the Yme platform developed for oil firms Talisman Energy and Lotos off the Norwegian coast.

The company said it will take charges of $629m to write down the troubled platform project and will issue new shares worth up to 20% of its capital.

UBS slipped as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority kicked off an investigation into possible Libor rigging by the bank - a day after the Swiss bank agreed to pay £940m to regulators for trying to manipulate the key rate.

Carnival Corporation reported a fall in full year revenues after what it called its most challenging year ever. Revenues for the year came in $15.4bn compared to $15.8bn for the prior year. The largest cruise company in the world blamed unfavourable changes in fuel prices and currency exchange rates for full year earnings 2012 dropping by $400m.

Euro falls against dollar

Front month Brent crude futures were lower by 0.245 dollars to the 110.090 dollar level.

The euro/dollar fell by 0.01% to the 1.3226 mark.

RD

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