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European shares dip on weak corporate earnings, virus risks

Stock Markets Feb 20, 2020 04:52AM ET
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By Sagarika Jaisinghani

(Reuters) - European shares eased from record highs on Thursday, as a raft of disappointing earnings added to fears about the global impact of the coronavirus outbreak after research suggested it was more contagious than previously thought.

The pan-European STOXX 600 (STOXX) shed 0.3%, led by a 1.2% fall in insurance stocks (SXIP) after Swiss Re (S:SRENH) posted a lower-than-expected annual profit. The reinsurer's shares dropped 4.2% to a two-week low.

A 4.6% fall for Spain's Telefonica (MC:TEF) weighed on the benchmark index after the telecoms group said one-off charges in Mexico and Argentina hurt its annual profit.

The stock was also the biggest decliner on the Spanish bourse (IBEX).

Joining a growing list of companies to put a number on the impact from the coronavirus epidemic, Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM SA (PA:AIRF) forecast an earnings hit of as much as 200 million euros ($216 million) by April. Its shares fell 6.5%.

Although recent figures have pointed to a slowdown in the outbreak in China, new cases in South Korea have rattled global equity markets and sparked fears that the virus might be harder to contain. [MKTS/GLOB]

Analysts said European equity investors were in a wait-and watch mode ahead of flash readings of the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) on manufacturing activity in the euro zone, due on Friday.

"You've got the manufacturing PMIs tomorrow, which is probably the most important figure this week because they may show the early impact of the coronavirus on demand and the supply chain," said Connor Campbell, analyst at Spreadex.

While traders foresee a short-term hit to the Chinese economy from the health crisis, expectations of a pickup in growth from the second quarter have kept equity markets near record highs.

The benchmark STOXX 600 index has bounced back from a slight dip in January and is on course for its best monthly gain in a year.

Among other individual movers, Swedish radiation therapy equipment maker Elekta AB (ST:EKTAb) slid to the bottom of the STOXX 600 after reporting quarterly operating profit growth below estimates and a fall in new orders in the United States.

French insurer AXA (PA:AXAF) fell 3.1% as it lowered 2020 profit guidance for its companies-focused XL unit and named a new boss for the division. The stock was among the biggest drags on the benchmark index.

European shares dip on weak corporate earnings, virus risks
 

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