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Europe: Stocks slide on fresh bond jitters

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[MILAN] European shares fell on Thursday, reversing earlier gains, on worries that the bond market will sell off further after US policymakers raised their forecast for inflation.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.5 per cent lower, its fourth straight day of losses. Germany's DAX led national indexes lower, down 1.4 per cent.

"It's hard to say whether this is just a technical-based move, but it does look like nervousness in equity markets is down to rising bond yields again," ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson said in a note.

US stocks opened lower, weighed down by a drop in Microsoft and by the Federal Reserve's forecast for faster inflation, which led it to predict "further gradual" interest rate increases.

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Most sectors in Europe were trading in negative territory. Pharma and telecoms were among the leading losers, both down 1.5 per cent or lower after disappointing updates from Novo Nordisk and Vodafone.

AFS analyst Arne Petimezas said declines by stocks were driven by expectations of tighter central bank policy and by a sell-off on the bond market.

Euro zone government bond yields rose across the board on Thursday. Germany's 10-year government bond yield, the benchmark for the euro zone, hit a two-year high.

After a strong 2017, European shares rose last month, as cyclical stocks like banks and autos gained on expectations of strong economic and earnings growth.

Price moves on Thursday were mostly driven by earnings updates. Royal Dutch Shell fell on disappointing fourth-quarter cashflow and insulin maker Novo declined after its chairman quit and it reported operating profit below expectations.

Danish telecoms operator TDC slumped more than 8 per cent after an announcement that it would buy the broadcasting and entertainment business of Sweden's Modern Times Group in a US$2.48 billion deal. Modern Times gained 7.4 per cent.

Several other big companies, among them Nokia and Dassault Systemes, were up after their profit updates.

NEX Group gained 7.8 per cent after revenues rose. The financial technology firm benefited from markets it said were "noticeably" more active this year.

Bic fell 9.4 per cent as Natixis cut its price target on the stock following its earnings update.

Overall, fourth-quarter earnings for the STOXX 600 are expected to increase by 11.9 per cent year on year, the latest Thomson Reuters data showed.

REUTERS

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