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European shares lower as pressure builds on Italian banks

Stock MarketsOct 02, 2018 04:28AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt 2/2

By Danilo Masoni

MILAN (Reuters) - European shares fell on Tuesday as anti-euro rhetoric from a senior Italian lawmaker spooked investors, sparking a sell-off in the country's sovereign bonds and sending shares in their banks to a 19-month low.

Italian banks (FTIT8300), whose large government bond holdings makes them sensitive to political stress, fell as much as four percent after the head of the lower house's budget committee said Italy would be better off out of the euro zone.

Banks (SX7P) were the biggest sectoral fallers in Europe, helping drag the pan-European STOXX 600 (STOXX) index down 0.4 percent by 0807 GMT after hitting its lowest lowest level in more than two weeks. Germany's DAX (GDAXI) fell 0.5 percent.

The lawmaker's comments came after euro zone officials warned Italy that its plan to borrow billions of extra euros to fund spending pledges could tip the bloc back into crisis. In response, Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said Italy would not change its budget deficit targets.

"We expect months of scrutiny on the budget by Italian institutions, the European Commission and rating agencies," said Matteo Ramenghi, CIO for Italy at UBS Global Wealth Management.

"Investors are likely to retain a cautious approach until further visibility on fiscal policy emerges," he added.

Shares in Italy's biggest banks, Intesa Sanpaolo (MI:ISP) and UniCredit (MI:CRDI), both fell around 1.8 percent.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) said the increase in Italian government bond spreads could impact banks' CET1 capital adequacy ratio by 8 basis points on average in the third quarter.

"Based on size of the bond portfolios and starting levels of CET1, Banco BPM (MI:BAMI), UBI (MI:UBI) and BMPS (MI:BMPS) are most vulnerable here," analysts at the U.S. bank said.

Strength among oil stocks (SXEP) , up 0.4 percent, on the back of rising crude prices helped limit the losses, while autos (SXAP) also rose as the Paris auto show got underway.

Among heavyweight companies, Siemens (DE:SIEGn) fell 2.1 percent after a downgrade from HSBX, while Philips (AS:PHG) also dropped more than 2 percent after a Credit Suisse (SIX:CSGN) downgrade.

Shares in Royal Mail (L:RMG) hit an all-time low, down 6.9 percent as brokers cut their price targets on the stock following a surprise profit warning on Monday due to worse than expected pressures on letter volumes and productivity.

The STOXX 600 has fallen 1.7 percent so far this year due to worries over a trade war between the US and China and concerns over political stability in the region, as worries over Italy and Brexit mount. Banks have fallen 16 percent year to date.

European shares lower as pressure builds on Italian banks

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