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SocGen warning, Huawei frictions drag European shares

Stock MarketsJan 17, 2019 05:02AM ET
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© Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt

By Danilo Masoni

MILAN (Reuters) - A profit warning from Societe Generale and new frictions over Chinese tech giant Huawei weighed on European shares on Thursday, as investors turned their focus to the start of the earnings season.

The pan-European STOXX 600 (STOXX) index was down 0.2 percent by 0936 GMT, having fallen as much as 0.6 percent in early trade, while Germany's exporter-heavy DAX (GDAXI) index (GDAXI) fell 0.5 percent and Britain's FTSE (FTSE) slid 0.4 percent.

Investors worried that action against Huawei could further complicate trade talks between Washington and Beijing at a time when signs of a global economic slowdown are growing.

Some U.S. lawmakers introduced bills on Wednesday that would ban the sale of U.S. chips to Huawei and other Chinese firms that violate U.S. sanctions, while a Wall Street Journal report said U.S. prosecutors were investigating allegations that Huawei stole trade secrets.

"China are unlikely to shrug this off which is creating a risk-off environment. Signs of retaliation from China could see stocks sink further," said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group.

Carmakers (SXAP), which are highly sensitive to trade and have large exposure to both the Chinese and U.S. economies, were the biggest losers, down 0.7 percent.

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said he thought U.S. President Donald Trump was inclined to impose tariffs on European cars to win better terms on agriculture.

European technology stocks (SX8P) fell 0.3 percent as chipmakers dropped after Taiwan Semiconductor (TW:2330) forecast its steepest revenue fall in a decade.

Societe Generale (PA:SOGN) shares were the biggest losers in the banking sector, down 3.3 percent. The French bank said its fourth-quarter results would be affected by tough market conditions and the impact of some asset sales.

The warning, which hit stocks of French rivals BNP Paribas (PA:BNPP) and Credit Agricole (PA:CAGR) surprised investors and highlighted how European banks have been lagging their Wall Street peers.

"I have a preference for the U.S. banks. SocGen shows how tough things are for European banks," said Jerome Schupp, fund manager at Geneva-based investment firm Prime Partners.

Italian banks (FTIT8300), however, rose 0.3 percent. A top government official said on Wednesday that mergers among Italian lenders could make the banking system more solid, as the sector seeks to further cut its bad loan pile.

Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine (VI:VOES) was another heavy faller, sliding 6.4 percent after another profit warning, while UK software firm Sage (L:SGE) shot to the top of the STOXX, after quarterly organic revenues rose 7.6 percent.

SocGen warning, Huawei frictions drag European shares

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