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Europe: Shares slip from 16-month highs as oil stocks, banks drop


[MILAN] European shares dropped on Monday, retreating from a 16-month high as a reversal among oil stocks and banking sector losses added pressure in a volatile session.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.5 per cent at its close, giving up earlier gains and falling from its highest level since December 2015.

Equity markets reversed course after a coalition of US states and municipalities began legal action against President Donald Trump's administration, accusing it of violating federal law by delaying energy efficiency standards for several consumer and commercial products.

The oil and gas sector index, which had risen to a nine-week high earlier in the session, turned negative to end 0.6 per cent lower.

Within the sector, British mid cap Tullow Oil fell 2.6 per cent, Italy's Eni was down 1.5 per cent and Spain's Repsol declined 1.2 per cent.

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Likewise Europe's basic resources index also ended 0.1 per cent lower after spending much of the session in positive territory.

Banking stocks were the biggest laggards, with the sector dropping 1.4 per cent. Banks and commodities-related stocks have enjoyed a rally as investors bet on a reflation trade, based on expectations of increased infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

The trade gathered pace after Mr Trump was elected US President in November, but has been under pressure after his healthcare bill failed last month.

Among European lenders, Banco Popular was the biggest faller, plunging more than 10 per cent after the Spanish lender said an internal audit identified the need of adjustments to its accounts with most of the adjustments related to doubtful loans. "Another unhelpful development which does little to restore confidence in the balance sheet," Jefferies analysts said.

Banco Popular also said that its CEO is to step down. Spain's IBEX index ended 1.3 per cent lower.

Among the biggest risers, dealmaking helped shares in engineer WS Atkins rocket 26.6 per cent after it confirmed that it had received a buyout offer from Canada's SNC-Lavalin.

Outside the STOXX index, London-listed Imagination Tech slumped more than 61 per cent after Apple said it would stop using its graphics technology in the iPhone and other products.

Traders said the heavy losses in Imagination also weighed on German chipmaker Dialog Semiconductor, which counts Apple among its biggest customers. Dialog fell 2.3 per cent.

Broker Northern Trust says Apple's decision to ditch Imagination is likely a one-off, and any weakness in Dialog and peer AMS was a buying opportunity.


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