European stocks struggle amid gloomy German data

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Daimler on Wednesday reported its worst year since 2015 as trade tensions and costly investments drove a slump in profits

Europe's stock markets struggled to find direction Wednesday as investors digested downbeat German economic data following an uneventful speech by US President Donald Trump.

Frankfurt dropped 0.3 percent as official figures showed that industrial orders in Germany fell back in December, the latest sign of a slowdown in Europe's largest economy.

The news also sent the European single currency down to $1.1377.

London stocks slipped by 0.1 percent meanwhile, with online supermarket Ocado hit by a warehouse fire, and lingering concerns over Britain leaving the European Union without a deal next month.

The odds of British Prime Minister Theresa May's getting concessions from EU leaders at a Thursday meeting in Brussels seemed to shrink further after comments by EU leader Donald Tusk.

He said there was a "special place in Hell" waiting for those "who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely".

The comment roused British politicians, but markets were less impressed.

Meanwhile Asian trading was calm owing to the Lunar New Year, and Trump's address provided little clarity, analysts said.

"Market participants closely examined President Donald Trump's State of the Union address with mixed perceptions," analysts at the Charles Schwab brokerage firm noted.

German statistics office Destatis said that factory orders were down by 1.6 percent in December from the previous month.

"European equities are on the back foot after a surprise drop in German factory orders this morning added to signs that the region's strongest economy is struggling," Oanda analyst Dean Popplewell commented.

"December saw German factory orders decline at the fastest rate in six months, helping pile further misery on a eurozone which is clearly struggling amid global trade woes," IG analyst Joshua Mahony said.

Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler added to the bad news, reporting its worst year since 2015.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index was down by 0.1 percent with French banking group BNP Paribas reporting a dip in profits.

- Wall Street treads water -

Wall Street also lacked direction in midday trading, a day after Trump's annual address.

Trump touched upon a number of issues including the China trade war, North Korea, the Russia investigation and healthcare.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said both sides in the US-China trade negotiations were working "around the clock" to reach an agreement by a March 1 deadline.

He also said that "the US economy continues to perform extremely well."

- Key figures around 1700 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,173.09 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.4 percent at 11,324.72 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,079.05 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,212.75

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 20,874.06 (close)

Sydney - S&P/ASX 200: UP 0.3 percent at 6,026.10 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for a public holiday

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 25,398.24

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1377 from $1.1406

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.76 yen from 109.96

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2954 from $1.2945 at 2200 GMT Tuesday

Euro/pound: DOWN at 87.84 pence from 88.09 pence

Oil - Brent Crude: UP 78 cents at $62.76 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 61 cents at $54.27

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