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Europe: Shares fall for second week, growth and trade worries linger


[LONDON] European shares closed the day higher in choppy trade on Friday but notched up their second straight week of losses as concerns about slowing global growth, weak earnings, and a US-China trade war drove investors away from the region's equities.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 0.4 per cent, while Italy's FTSE MIB outperformed with a 0.6 per cent rise led by rebounding banks and technology stocks, while Italian equities rallied as bond yields fell.

FTSE 100 was the only major bourse in the red at the close of volatile trading as oil prices sank.

Data showing weak business activity data for the bloc also fanned concerns about the growth outlook, prompting a further scaling back of ECB rate-hike expectations.

Market voices on:

"The market seems to still be concerned about the growth outlook and this comes along with a lot of discussions that we have on politics," said Britta Weidenbach, Europe portfolio manager at German asset manager DWS.

"The US-China trade conflict, Brexit negotiations, Italy to some extent, all of this is causing worries that companies will further delay their investment decisions."

The European oil and gas index sank 2.9 per cent to April lows as the crude rout deepened in afternoon trade.

Airlines benefited from the continued sell-off with Lufthansa up 2.9 per cent and leading the DAX and easyJet up 4.1 per cent. Fuel makes up a significant portion of the sector's costs.

Italian banks also climbed after a media report that Italy's EU Affairs Minister Paolo Savona is considering resigning over the government's decision to challenge European Union budget rules. Savona and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini denied the report.

Italy's banks' index climbed 1.3 per cent as bond yields slid, boosting lenders who have large sovereign bond portfolios.

Generali rose 2.3 per cent, while Banca Mediolanum and Unicredit were up 2.1 per cent.

Renault shares rose 2.3 per cent after Deputy CEO Thierry Bollore said he would safeguard the carmaker's interests in its alliance with Nissan, following the ouster of Carlos Ghosn as Nissan chairman over financial misconduct allegations.

Jefferies analysts upgraded Renault shares to "buy", writing: "The most likely outcome from the current crisis, in our opinion, is a re-balancing of the Alliance with cooperation continuing and Renault reducing its stake to a "fairer" level."

The carmaker's shares dropped 8.4 per cent on Monday when CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested over allegations of financial misconduct.

Telecoms equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia climbed 3.9 and 1.5 per cent respectively as traders saw a positive read-across from a Wall Street Journal report that the US government is asking allies to shun telecoms equipment from China's Huawei.

Earnings disappointments drove the biggest losses on the STOXX.

Shares in stone wool insulation maker Rockwool plunged 14 per cent after its third-quarter results.

German industrial machinery group GEA fell 10 per cent after it cut its outlook for 2018 cashflow margin.

Industrials firms have delivered weaker results as the slowdown in European growth, and trade war fears, hit those most vulnerable to the cycle first.

Data on Friday showed Germany's economy saw its first quarterly contraction since 2015 in Q3, driven by weaker exports.

Overall expectations for 2018 earnings growth in European stocks have fallen recently as investors price in a weaker economy.

"Markets do look really attractively priced by now, but the question is about the earnings," said Ms Weidenbach.

"For next year consensus (earnings growth) is still at around high single digits, but certainly there are some clouds in the sky that might make the consensus a little bit too optimistic because of the economic environment," she added.