Europe: Energy supply crunch, Covid-19 woes weigh on stocks

EUROPEAN shares fell on Monday, dragged lower by economy-sensitive stocks, as concerns over an energy supply crunch and fresh Covid-19 cases in China hurt risk appetite and heightened worries about a recession.

Nord Stream I, the biggest single pipeline carrying Russian gas to Germany, began annual maintenance on Monday, with flows expected to stop for 10 days, but governments, markets and companies are worried the shutdown might be extended because of the war in Ukraine.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index broke a three-day winning streak to end 0.5 per cent lower, after posting its best week in seven on Friday.

China-exposed automobiles fell 2.8 per cent, the most among the European sectors, and dragging the German DAX down by 1.4 per cent.

Miners slid 1.9 per cent as metal and iron ore prices slumped on worries that rising Covid-19 cases in Shanghai would lead to more curbs.

Investors are worried about the effects on industries across the board, Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said, adding that if emergency plans implemented by the government include rationing, then they would really hurt growth within economies highly reliant on exports from Russia.

A complete halt of Nord Stream I would keep European gas prices higher for longer, piling pressure on the European Central Bank, which is set to increase its key interest rate later this month for the first time in more than a decade.

Uniper, among the first to flag a hit from falling Russian supplies, dropped 14.4 per cent as a dispute between Germany and Finland over the cost of rescuing the gas importer flared.

Markets have had a tough couple of weeks on recession worries, and the euro approaching parity with the dollar adds to investor worries about the hit to earnings.

Euro zone finance ministers said on Monday the fight against inflation was the current priority despite dwindling growth in the bloc, as they are set to be informed of a deteriorating economic outlook by the European Commission.

Investor await US June inflation data due on Wednesday for further clues on the US interest rate path later this year, followed by an upcoming second-quarter reporting season for signs on how corporate are faring amidst higher inflation and tightening financial conditions.

A gauge of eurozone lenders dipped 2.3 per cent tracking a sharp fall in euro zone bond yields.

Defensive sectors rose, with utilities up 1.3 per cent.

Sinch tumbled 27.5 per cent as short seller Ningi Research shorted the Swedish cloud communications company.

Dufry gained 3.8 per cent after the duty-free retailer agreed to buy Italian airport and motorway caterer Autogrill. REUTERS

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