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Europe: Shares in reverse after shock China data; luxury stocks fall

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[LONDON] China's surprisingly weak trade data brought a four-day rally in European shares to a halt on Monday, with luxury goods and technology stocks leading the drop as investors fretted about slowing global growth and weaker-than-expected earnings.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended down 0.5 per cent, reversing some of last week's gains that saw the index hit a one-month high. The market notched up four straight days of gains, its longest winning streak since November.

Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 fell 0.3 and 0.4 per cent respectively. Ahead of Tuesday's crunch UK parliamentary vote on Brexit, London's FTSE 100 declined 0.9 per cent.

Luxury goods firms, which rely on appetite for handbags and jewellery from China's burgeoning middle class, bore the brunt of the selling.

LVMH, Hermes and Gucci owner Kering were among the biggest fallers in Paris, down between 1.6 and 2.6 per cent, while Moncler in Milan dropped 2.7 per cent. On average, one third of the luxury sector is exposed to Chinese demand.

Danish jeweller Pandora slumped 6 per cent to the bottom of the Stoxx 600, also hurt by a price target cut by Morgan Stanley. Burberry bucked the trend, garnering strength from a BAML upgrade to neutral from underperform.

UK-listed miners, which are also exposed to the health of the world's No. 2 economy, were down 1 per cent.

Adding to market nerves was the start later on Monday of the fourth-quarter US earnings season, with Citi first to report.

S&P 500 earnings will have grown 14.5 per cent in the final quarter of the year, the slowest since the third quarter of 2017, sharply lower than the 28.4 per cent rise in the third quarter last year and almost flat year-on-year, I/B/E/S Refinitiv data indicates.

In Europe, gloom across technology stocks returned with the weaker Chinese data. The tech index fell 1.5 per cent.

Having briefly dropped in early deals after reporting fourth-quarter sales at the bottom end of its guidance, chip designer and Apple supplier Dialog Semiconductor jumped 1.9 per cent.

Credit Suisse said it believed the company's trading update was much better than its peers and noted strength in the company's non-Apple business.

Continental shares rose 3 per cent, also rebounding from initial losses after the auto parts supplier warned of deteriorating conditions in the car sector.

"Conti has most likely tried to be cautious by giving a broader range for 2019 guidance," said Jefferies analysts.

JD Sports delivered some good news to the UK's battered retail sector, forecasting profits at the upper end of expectations. Shares gained 6.4 per cent on London's FTSE 250.

Elsewhere, M&A caught investors' attention after pan-European stock market operator Euronext officially launched its all-cash US$729 million bid for Oslo Bors.

The news came just hours after the Norwegian stock market operator's board said it had found alternative bidders and would issue a recommendation by late February.

Euronext shares gained 1 per cent, while rival London Stock Exchange rose 1.5 per cent as the news stirred expectations of potential dealmaking among stock market operators.

Broker recommendations drove other individual moves. Swiss hearing aid maker Sonova rose 3.9 per cent after UBS upgraded its rating to buy.

French retirement home operator Orpea slumped 7.5 per cent after Exane cut its rating.