Two articles, by Bloomberg, published today. I didn't want to create two separate threads. European Stocks Decline on U.S. Economic Reports, Price of Oil http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aiW1eG8RpRsA&refer=home By Sarah Thompson March 31 (Bloomberg) -- European stocks declined this week as economic reports in the U.S. fueled concern that earnings growth worldwide may slow more than expected and oil prices rose after Iran seized 15 British sailors in the Persian Gulf. ``Earnings are expected to snap the run of double-digit growth'' in Europe, said Jane Drake, who helps oversee $10.4 billion as investment director at Tilney Investment Management in Liverpool, U.K. ``We've had a lot of economic data that has raised concerns about growth, inflation and housing.'' SAP AG, Axa SA and Lafarge SA led declines by companies reliant on sales in the U.S., while British Airways Plc retreated as the climb in oil prices raised fuel costs. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index decreased 0.5 percent this week to 374.22. The measure rose 2.5 percent in the first three months of the year, its third consecutive quarterly advance. The Stoxx 50 fell 0.9 percent, and the Euro Stoxx 50, a gauge for the 13 nations using the euro, dropped 0.3 percent. France's CAC 40 fell less than 0.1 percent while Germany's DAX increased 0.3 percent. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 retreated 0.5 percent. Vodafone Group Plc, the world's largest mobile-phone company, led telecom shares lower after reporting shrinking profit margins and saying competitive and regulatory pressure will continue in Europe. Amvescap Plc fell after the mutual-fund operator was sued by three bond managers who want to defect to Deutsche Bank AG, saying they are trapped in ``indentured servitude'' by restrictive employment contracts. U.S. Economic Data Reports on March 26 and March 27 showed respectively U.S. home sales unexpectedly declined and consumer confidence slid more than economists forecast. The data deepened concern that a housing crisis will stifle growth in Europe's largest export market. Stocks extended losses March 28 after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said inflation remains ``uncomfortably high'' and uncertainties about the growth outlook have risen ``somewhat.'' Earnings growth of Stoxx 600 companies will slow to 6.2 percent on average this year, according to estimates compiled by FactSet Research Systems, compared with 14.6 percent for 2006. SAP, the world's largest maker of business-management software and which gets about 28 percent of its revenue from the U.S., retreated 2.6 percent to 33.37 euros. Axa, which receives about 16 percent of sales from North America and is Europe's second-largest insurer, lost 1.5 percent to 31.74 euros. Lafarge, the world's largest cement maker, decreased 0.5 percent to 117.69 euros. It gets about 30 percent of its sales from the U.S. BA Declines British Airways Plc, Europe's third-largest airline, fell 6.2 percent to 486 pence. Approximately 30 percent of airlines' costs are related to oil prices, according to research by Credit Suisse Group. BP Plc, Europe's second-largest oil company, added 1.9 percent to 552 pence. Lundin Petroleum AB, Sweden's largest oil producer, increased 1.9 percent to 82.75 Swedish kronor. Crude oil traded near a six-month high, as 15 British naval personnel seized in the Persian Gulf remained in Iranian custody for an eighth day, heightening concern the standoff will threaten oil shipments from the region. Vodafone Margins Shares of Vodafone slipped 4.1 percent to 135.5 pence on concern that operating profit margins in the U.K. are shrinking. For the five months ended February 2007, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization as a percentage of sales at Vodafone's U.K. unit were 26.6 percent, Newbury, England-based Vodafone said yesterday in a statement. The U.K. Ebitda margin was 30.8 percent in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2006. The company also warned competitive and regulatory pressure will continue in Europe in fiscal 2008. ``While revenue growth is probably ahead of expectations, the Ebitda margin appears to be lower,'' said Jesper Kruger, who helps manage about $64 billion as an investment manager at ATP in Copenhagen. ``It would appear that the days of 30 percent margins in the U.K. are over.'' BT Group Plc, the U.K.'s largest telephone company, slid 1.1 percent to 303.75 pence. Telekom Austria AG dropped 0.7 percent to 18.71 euros. ``The fact that one of the big guys in the sector, and the market, is making negative noises around margins in a historically high-margin business is clearly cause for concern,'' Kruger said. Amvescap Amvescap declined 8.2 percent to 560 pence. The lawsuit came two days after Atlanta-based Amvescap sued the New York- based fund unit of Deutsche Bank, claiming the company staged an illegal raid to lure away 16 members of its bond group. Amvescap's shares fell 5 percent March 28 on concern its earnings would be hurt by the loss of the bond team, which helps manage one fifth of the company's $463 billion in assets. The three executives, Stephen Johnson, Kenneth Bowling and James Guenther, cited compensation issues in their suit. They seek to end their employment as well as unspecified damages. The job contracts they signed required 12-month written resignation notices, according to the suit filed by Amvescap's Louisville, Kentucky-based Invesco International Inc. unit. BASF AG gained 6.7 percent to 84.28 euros. The world's largest chemicals maker will shut an amino-acid factory in South Korea and plans to open a plastics facility in Asia with Solvay SA. Solvay, Belgium's largest chemical and pharmaceutical company, added 2.8 percent to 115.04 euros. Arkema SA, the chemicals maker spun off from Total SA, rose 7.3 percent to 42.92 euros. Taylor Woodrow Shares of Taylor Woodrow Plc advanced 16.4 percent to 489.5 pence after the company agreed to merge with George Wimpey Plc, sparking speculation about a counter-offer and further consolidation in the 20 billion-pound ($39 billion) industry. Shares of Taylor surged 13 percent March 26, their biggest jump since Feb. 25, 2000, after the Solihull, England-based company said it and Wimpey would merge to form Britain's biggest builder. Taylor Wimpey Plc will have annual revenue of 6.7 billion pounds and 31,000 home sales a year at sites from London to Texas. Vallourec SA increased 10 percent to 191.58 euros. The French maker of steel tubes used to carry oil and gas rose the most in six months March 28 on speculation Arcelor Mittal may be preparing a bid. Lakshmi Mittal denied his company is considering an offer. `No Interest' ``At this time we have no interest in Vallourec,'' Mittal told reporters yesterday in Brussels. Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel company, has announced a pipe and tube project in Saudi Arabia, a joint venture with a Saudi partner, as part of its strategy, he said. Vallourec spokeswoman Marie-Laurence Bouchon in Paris said the company doesn't comment on ``rumors.'' Scottish & Newcastle Plc, the U.K.'s largest brewer, surged 9.9 percent to 601.5 pence on speculation the company may get a bid from Heineken NV. The British brewer, based in Edinburgh, has a market value of about 5.3 billion pounds. Amsterdam-based Heineken, which sells beer in more than 170 countries, has a capitalization of 19 billion euros ($25 billion). ``There is a rumor that Heineken is about to bid for Scottish & Newcastle,'' said Marcel Hooijmaijers, an analyst at Kepler Equities in Amsterdam, who recommends investors buy the Dutch brewer's shares. ``Heineken has shown interest before in entering the U.K.'' Robert Ballantyne, a spokesman for Scottish & Newcastle, wasn't immediately available. Heineken spokeswoman Veronique Schyns declined to comment ``on market rumors.'' M&A to Continue ``Mergers and acquisitions will continue and that's an element of support for stocks,'' said Jean-Luc Enguehard, chief executive officer at La Banque Postale Asset Management in Paris, which oversees $38 billion. ``In the short term, we're more cautious. There's the difficulty of the housing data yesterday. The risk is of a contamination of the rest of the economy.'' Companies including Corus Group Plc, the U.K.'s biggest steelmaker, and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, the publisher of the Harry Potter novels, are due to release earnings next week. Quadrant AG, the Swiss maker of plastics used by carmakers, and Boehler-Uddeholm AG, the Austrian specialty steelmaker, are also to publish results.