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Euro-zone business activity slows : France and Spain Down

By MarketWatch
A recovery in euro-zone business activity lost momentum at the start of the fourth quarter, as companies on the whole continued to cut jobs
Data firm Markit said its composite Purchasing Managers' Index, a monthly gauge of activity across manufacturing and services, edged down to 51.9 in October from 52.2 in September
A reading above 50 indicates growth
Still represents a slowdown from prior months
It is consistent with economic output rising 0.2% quarter-on-quarter, Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson said
The 18-nation euro-zone economy grew 0.3% in the second quarter, ending an 18-month downturn. Many economists expect data for July through September, due Nov. 14, to show the recovery flagging
Companies received fewer new orders than in previous months. In response, they cut jobs, represented by an employment balance below 50 for the 22nd straight month
The decline in employment was slightly faster than in September
Record levels of unemployment are among the euro zone's biggest economic problems and threaten to undermine its economic recovery due to weak domestic demand
Markit gives detailed figures for five countries--Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Ireland--that account for the bulk of euro-zone economic output
All showed growth in business activity in October, with the weakest rates in France and Spain

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BOE leaves QE unchanged at £375 billion
Bank of England stands pat, leaves rates at 0.5%

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NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The European Central Bank surprised markets, cutting its benchmark interest rate, the refi rate, by a quarter of a percentage point to a record low 0.25%. Economists had said a cut was a possibility with annual inflation in the euro zone running well below the central bank's target of near but just below 2%.

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By MarketWatch
Spanish oil company Repsol SA said Thursday its third-quarter profit declined 47% on the year, mainly due to a production outage in Libya that lasted for about a third of the quarter.

Repsol said its current cost of supplies, or CCS, net income--a figure that excludes gains or losses in the value of inventories and is therefore equivalent to the net profit figure reported by U.S. oil companies--fell to 354 million euros ($478.4 million), from EUR671 million in the same period a year earlier, excluding nationalized Argentine unit YPF SA
Excluding one-off gains and losses, the company's CCS adjusted net income decreased 22% to EUR387 million.

Security concerns in Libya shuttered Repsol's main production area in the country for about a month during the quarter. While total production grew 1.5% in the quarter to 344,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day on the back of increased output in Brazil, Russia and Bolivia, the lower level of more-profitable barrels from Libya crimped Repsol's profit overall.

Lower refining margins also hit profits as the spread between the price of final products and the Brent European crude oil benchmark narrowed. Repsol's refining margin in Spain fell to $2.6 per barrel from $6.4 a barrel a year ago.

After Argentina in early May 2012 nationalized 51% of the company's controlling stake in YPF--the country's leading oil and gas company--Repsol eventually ended up with a 12% stake in YPF.

Since the nationalization, Repsol has sought to protect its investment-grade credit rating by cutting its dividend payout ratio and selling assets to slash its debt.

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By Alex MacDonald
LONDON-ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steelmaker, reported a narrower third-quarter loss and expects its results to continue improving in the current quarter, driven by expectations of higher steel demand in China and more stable demand in Europe.

ArcelorMittal--which makes more steel than its top two competitors combined and accounts for about 6% of the world's total steel output--on Thursday reported a loss of $193 million, or $0.12 a share, in the three months ended September. This compares with a net loss of $652 million, or $0.42 a share, in the same period a year earlier.

The company's keenly watched earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 24% from a year earlier to $1.71 billion, beating analysts' expectations of $1.55 billion based on a consensus of 26 analysts polled by the company. Ebitda rose partly due to a 6% on-year increase in steel shipments to 21.1 million tons and costs savings in the third quarter.

The Luxembourg-based steel maker reaffirmed that it still expects Ebitda to exceed $6.5 billion in 2013, driven by a 1% to 2% increase in steel shipments, a 20% rise in marketable iron ore shipments, and benefits from costs savings and a restructuring of its assets.

"After a weak first half, we have seen third-quarter performance improve year-on-year, positively impacted by our cost optimization efforts and the increased shipments from our mining expansion," ArcelorMittal Chief Executive and Chairman Lakshmi Mittal said in a statement. "We believe that the bottom of the cycle is behind us and expect second-half Ebitda, usually comparably weaker, to be at least equal to the first (half)."

Mr. Mittal said although operating conditions remain challenging, the company is "cautiously optimistic" about the prospects for 2014 due to improving economic indicators.

ArcelorMittal has taken significant steps this year to pare back its debt amid lackluster steel demand in many of its key markets, particularly Europe. It has idled production capacity, cut its dividend and sold billions of dollars in assets. Analysts say the company's debt worries are now in the past, and they expect the company to start delivering higher earnings following a restructuring of its operations, particularly in Western Europe. The company has already resumed investment in some steel projects amid signs of robust steel demand in select markets, such as Algeria's automotive sector and Brazil's construction sector.

As expected, net debt rose to $17.8 billion as of Sept. 30 from $16.2 billion as of June 30, but is still down from $21.8 billion at the end of last year. The company expects net debt to fall to $17 billion in the fourth quarter and still reach its medium-term target of $15 billion.

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