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Europe: Shares fall on Paris incident, North Korea worries
[LONDON] European shares fell back on Wednesday as geopolitical tensions sent all major benchmarks into negative territory, accompanied by a slight uptick in volatility in what is typically a quiet period of summer trading for the market.
Risky assets were hit globally after North Korea said it was considering plans to attack Guam, which has a large US military base.
On a day which also marked 10 years since the start of the global financial crisis, the pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session 0.7 per cent lower, while Euro zone stocks and blue-chips dropped more than one per cent.
France's CAC 40 fell 1.4 per cent after a car hit a group of soldiers in a Parisian suburb in what was said to be a deliberate act, while Germany's DAX was also down 1.1 per cent as bond yields fell.
The VSTOXX, Europe's main gauge of equity market investor anxiety, stirred to reach its highest level in two weeks, though still remained at subdued levels, while its US counterpart - the Vix - touched a one-month high.
"In the wake of the global financial crisis, many major economies undertook largely coordinated efforts to expand balanced sheets and provide almost infinite liquidity to the system," Steve Kelso, CEO of Ashburton Investments, said.
"The by-product of quantitative easing, combined with ultra-low interest rate policies, has been the dampening down of volatility," Mr Kelso said, adding that an increase in volatility spikes was likely in the future.
Gold miners Randgold Resources and Fresnillo were among the only gainers on the FTSE, up 2.8 to 4.9 per cent as investors rushed to the safety of gold.
Banks meanwhile suffered heavy losses, down 1.4 per cent.
Results also drove some sharp moves lower.
G4S led fallers, down 7.5 per cent despite the security group reporting first-half profit up 7.6 per cent and saying its turnaround was on track. Stifel analysts pointed to operating cashflow being weaker year-on-year.
Chemicals group Brenntag also dropped 6.7 per cent after second quarter results undershot expectations.
Overall, results season has been strong, analysts and investors said. Earnings growth for the MSCI Euro zone companies reporting this quarter is tracking at 15.7 per cent, with 76 per cent of results in so far.
"I still think there's more good news than bad news (in results) because you're still seeing underlying economies growing at a decent clip," said Andrew King, head of European equities at BNP Paribas Asset Management.
"On a longer term view you're now starting to see a break with the history of constant earnings downgrades," he added.
The healthcare sector declined just 0.3 per cent thanks to strong gains from the world's top maker of diabetes drugs, Novo Nordisk, up 7.9 per cent after beating second-quarter profit forecasts.
Scout24 also jumped 4.7 per cent to a seven-month high after the German online classifieds company said it had won back customers in the second quarter. Its shares had fallen sharply after a broker downgrade last week.