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Europe: Shares hit one-week low, commodity stocks slump

[LONDON] European shares fell to a new one-week low on Friday, with companies like satellite operator SES slumping after a disappointing update and commodity shares tracking a sharp decline in mining and oil prices.

SES shares fell 6.8 per cent, the biggest decliner in the blue-chip FTSEurofirst 300 index, after cutting its full-year revenue and profit guidance following a delayed satellite launch and a decline in earnings from fixed data customers due to the strong dollar.

The European basic resources and energy sectors fell 3.3 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively after copper prices tumbled to a six-year low on worries about Chinese demand, and oil neared four-month lows after data showed a contraction in China's factory sector.

"The consensus view does appear to now be for a slowdown in China, and this will subdue demand for the metals group in general," said Juliet Cohn, portfolio manager at Principal Global Equities, which manages more than US$330 billion. "We are currently finding companies with greater upside to estimates elsewhere in the market."

Germany's DAX fell 1.5 per cent, led by Germany's BASF, down 5 per cent, after its earnings missed expectations. Volkswagen was down 3 per cent after Manager Magazin said the company's China manager was readying a cost saving programme because the carmaker's full-year group profit could fall by more than 1 billion euros due to weak demand in the country.

Aggreko plummeted 12 per cent after issuing a profit warning and Spain's Abengoa tumbled 9 per cent despite saying it would act to prevent speculative trading on its debt, a day after losses for its bonds, credit default swaps and stocks.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 1 per cent at 1,562.72 points by 1522 GMT after falling to 1,562.57, the lowest in a week. The index headed for a weaker weekly close after gaining in the previous two weeks.

Analysts said that the market weakness was mainly due to a sharp decline in commodity stocks and less because of news on Greece, where talks on tying up a new bailout deal failed to start on Friday as had been expected, with officials blaming security worries for delaying the negotiations.

Some companies got boost from their positive earnings updates. Telecom major Vodafone rose 3.4 per cent after results that showed improvements across major markets in Germany and Britain.

France's defence group Thales rose 6.7 per cent to an all-time high. Its first-half operating profit rose by a larger-than-expected 18 per cent to 473 million euros, buoyed in part by a tighter grip on costs in its defence and security business.