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Europe: Shares pause for breath; Carillion rivals gain

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[LONDON] European stocks edged lower on Monday following two weeks of gains, with cyclical stocks among the biggest decliners while merger activity remained in focus.

Shares in some competitors of Carillion rose after the long-struggling construction and support services company collapsed, with banks refusing to lend it any more money.

Serco jumped 7.3 per cent, Interserve 2 per cent and Kier Group 3.5 per cent, while Balfour Beatty fell 3.3 per cent.

While the Stoxx index has seen a strong start to 2018 and has held at its highest levels since August 2015, weakness among banking and energy stocks kept the index in negative territory, while a stronger euro added pressure.

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Market voices on:

"European equities have been on a tear since the beginning of 2018, and we were due some form of a pullback," Jonathan Roy, market strategist at Ocean Capital Group, said.

"What we're going to have to see now are economic figures coming through as strong as they have been."

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index ended down 0.2 per cent, while Euro zone blue chips ended little changed. Cyclical stocks, whose profits are most sensitive to the strength of the economy, have been the best equity sector performers this year.

Finnish mining equipment maker Metso was the biggest faller on the Stoxx, dropping 9.8 per cent after its fourth-quarter earnings missed expectations.

German retailer Metro fell 3.8 per cent after a sales update, with its Russian business showing a slowdown in sales in the Christmas quarter.

"Russia is likely to be the catalyst for any share price re-rating, and there is no sign of any progress yet on this front," analysts at Raymond James said in a note.

GKN rose 4.1 per cent after suitor Melrose said it planned to meet shareholders of the British automotive and aerospace equipment maker following a rejected takeover offer.

Shares in Azimut Holding were the top risers, up 12.7 per cent after the Italian asset manager said it would double its dividend as it reported record net inflows.

REUTERS

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