Mexican cement giant Cemex posted a fourth quarter loss on Thursday with gains in the United States, Latin America and Asia being wiped out by falling sales in Europe. Battling to cut debt since the US housing crisis, the building materials company reported a loss of $489 million in the last quarter of 2012, which was an improvement from the $761 million it lost over the same period in 2011. Cemex said overall net sales were flat in the fourth quarter at $3.7 billion, with sales dropping eight percent to $1.0 billion in northern Europe and eight percent to $354 million in the Mediterranean region. The weakness in Europe offset gains in the United States, where sales grew by 11 percent to $756 million. The company also posted increases of two percent in Mexico, 16 percent in Latin America and 12 percent in Asia. "2012 was a year of recovery for Cemex," said Fernando Gonzalez, the firm's executive vice president of finance and administration. "We are particularly pleased with the quarterly performance of our operations in the United States, and the South, Central America and Caribbean and Asia regions," he said. The Monterrey, Mexico, company reported $15 billion in net sales for the full year, a two percent drop from 2011, while core profits rose by 10 percent to $2.6 billion. The company announced in September a plan to refinance $7.1 billion of debt with nearly all of its creditors. "Today, we are not only in a better shape financially, but we are also much more agile and flexible operationally," Gonzalez said.