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Europe: Shares dip as UK trading updates disappoint


[MILAN] Weak trading updates in Britain and dealmaking activity drove some big share price moves in Europe on Wednesday as the broader market weakened after a strong start to the year.

Luxury fashion brand Burberry and educational publishing company Pearson were among the top fallers after disappointing trading updates.

Their losses, along with weakness in the heavyweight financial and healthcare sectors, dragged the pan-European Stoxx 600 index to close 0.1 per cent lower. Britain's FTSE fell by 0.4 per cent.

Britain's Informa dropped 5.7 per cent after it made a paper and cash offer to buy UK events organiser UBM, which shot up 12 per cent.

Contractor Interserve tumbled around 15 per cent early in the session after the Financial Times reported that British ministers are "very worried" and have set up a team of officials to monitor the company following the collapse of competitor Carillion.

Interserve later pared its decline to just 0.4 per cent after the company said it anticipated its 2017 financial year performance to be in line with expectations and saw 2018 operating profit ahead of market consensus forecasts.

Cyclical autos, commodity-related stocks and banks have led gains in European equities since the turn of the year, helped by bond market jitters and optimism that the region is relatively early in a cycle of profit upgrades and capital spending growth.

Despite Wednesday's decline, the Stoxx remains close to a 2-1/2 year high hit early this month.

A strengthening of the euro - the currency recently touched a three-year high against the dollar - has caused some nerves over European companies most reliant on dollar earnings.

"Could this derail European profits? We think not, the level of the currency is not problematic and part of the driver has been an improvement in European macro. But worth watching," UBS said in a strategy note. "We would focus on domestic exposure and cyclicality (Banks)."

Tech was among the few sectors in positive territory on Wednesday, underpinned by a 5 per cent surge in ASML.

The Dutch chipmaking equipment supplier posted better-than-expected net profit in the fourth quarter as customers asked for early delivery of products as semiconductor demand booms.


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