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European stocks fall as banks slide, energy shares give up gains

[LONDON] European stocks fell for the fourth time in six days, led by declines in banks and carmakers.

Already the worst performers among industry groups this year, lenders extended their declines to a February low, dragged by those in Italy. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV led carmakers lower, falling 3.9 per cent after indefinitely laying off 1,300 employees at a Michigan factory. A gauge of oil shares reversed an earlier advance of as much as 1.3 per cent.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slid 0.8 per cent at 4:37 p.m. in London, after rising as much as 0.4 per cent. Daimler AG and 24 other companies traded without the right to dividend today, shaving 0.4 point off the equity measure. Minutes from the Federal Reserve's March meeting showed late yesterday that several officials favored a cautious approach to future rate increases.

"There is a lot of fear in the market," said Herbert Perus, who helps oversee the equivalent of about $32 billion as head of equities at Raiffeisen Capital Management in Vienna. " A lot of large investors do not believe in rising stock prices and were positioning themselves for a downturn. Rising oil again, good news from Fed and the start of the earning season can change things immediately."

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Europe's benchmark rebounded from its lowest level in almost six weeks, led by health-care companies. The Stoxx 600 has been particularly volatile lately, with a rally that pushed up the gauge by as much as 14 per cent since a Feb 11 low losing steam in recent weeks. Since reaching a two-month high on March 14, the gauge has fallen 4.8 per cent.

Investors have remained skeptical of the region's recovery despite central-bank stimulus, with economic data missing projections for most of 2016. Analysts are forecasting profit at Stoxx 600 companies will shrink this year, reversing earlier calls for growth.

Among other shares active on corporate news, Marks & Spencer Group Plc gained 3 per cent after its clothing sales beat analysts' estimates. Worldpay Group Plc fell 2.9 per cent after selling shares to institutional investors.



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