[LONDON] European shares fell on Monday in their first day of trade since the Christmas break, with a sharp decline in crude oil prices putting pressure on energy stocks such as Repsol and Total.
The Euro STOXX Oil and Gas index tumbled 1.6 per cent as crude oil dipped under US$37 a barrel, trading within sight of an 11-year low under pressure from excess supply that has more than halved prices since mid-2014.
Shares in Repsol, Total, oil services company Technip and offshore drilling contractor Seadrill dropped between 1.7 per cent and 5.3 per cent. "Today's drop is again due to the low price of oil and the fall in the oil and gas sector following the weak Chinese data over the weekend," said John Plassard, senior equity sales executive at Mirabaud Securities.
Data showed profits earned by Chinese industrial companies in November fell from a year earlier, marking a sixth consecutive month of decline.
Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade, also said weak Chinese economic data released on Sunday was dampening the markets. "The bias could be skewed towards the downside and most of the bets may also be anchored towards this direction." The Euro STOXX 50 index was down 0.9 per cent at its close, Germany's DAX fell 0.7 per cent, while France's CAC dropped nearly 1 per cent.
However, volumes on the DAX and the CAC were just about 36 per cent of their 90-day daily average at their close due to a public holiday in the United Kingdom.
Shares in ArcelorMittal fell 5.2 per cent on profit taking, after surging 17 per cent in the previous week on a report saying China was likely to cut its steel surplus, which has kept prices at decade lows.
Adidas slipped 1.2 per cent after the company's CFO Robin Stalker told Boersen-Zeitung he expected sourcing costs to rise by half a billion euros in 2016 due to negative currency effects.
However, Banca Monte dei Paschi rose 0.4 per cent after Italy's third-largest bank said it had signed a binding agreement to sell a portfolio of non-performing loans with a gross book value of 1 billion euros (S$1.55 billion) to a Deutsche Bank vehicle.