Eurozone flight to quality? Really!

European stocks advanced, following their biggest rally in seven weeks, as investors assessed a report that showed the U.S. economy created fewer new jobs last month than forecast.

ArcelorMittal added 1 percent after the world’s biggest steelmaker reported fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts’ projections. EMS-Chemie Holding AG advanced 3.8 percent after posting better-than-expected profit in 2013 and saying it will pay an extraordinary dividend. SBM Offshore NV, the Dutch supplier of floating oil and gas rigs, tumbled 12 percent for its largest decline since November 2012.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index increased 0.7 percent to 324.99 at 4:30 p.m. in London, taking its advance this week to 0.8 percent. The equity benchmark rallied 1.5 percent yesterday as the European Central Bank left interest rates at a record low. European stocks have still fallen 3.3 percent from their high on Jan. 22 amid a sell-off in emerging-market currencies and signs of slowing economic growth in China.

“The market is in a positive mood -- perhaps too positive -- and forgives worse-than-expected numbers more easily,” Thomas Lehr, an investment strategist at Credit Suisse Group AG in Zurich, said in a telephone interview. “Investors are likely to blame the numbers on the bad weather recently and not overrate today’s data, while waiting for next month’s report to get a clearer picture.”

In the U.S., a Labor Department report in Washington showed that the unemployment rate unexpectedly slipped to 6.6 percent in January, its lowest in more than five years. The release also showed that employers in the world’s biggest economy increased their payrolls by 113,000 workers last month. That missed the median forecast of 92 economists in a Bloomberg survey for net hires of 180,000.

ArcelorMittal Climbs

ArcelorMittal advanced 1 percent to 12.51 euros. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose to $1.91 billion in the fourth quarter, from $1.56 billion a year earlier. That beat the average analyst estimate of $1.81 billion. The company also said earnings will continue to climb in 2014, forecasting full-year Ebitda of about $8 billion.

Aperam, the stainless-steel producer spun off by ArcelorMittal in 2011, jumped 14 percent to 15.50 euros. Ebitda in the fourth quarter amounted to $84 million, beating the $65.5 million that analysts had predicted.

Vedanta Resources Plc increased 4.1 percent to 856.5 pence after Bank of America Corp. raised the commodity producer to buy from neutral. The brokerage said that the share price already reflects concern the Indian rupee will continue to weaken. Vedanta mines iron ore in India and copper in Zambia.

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