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Europe: Shares snap four-day rally on Unilever warning, hard Brexit fears

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European shares bucked a four day winning streak on Tuesday, weighed by Unilever after a sales warning, while fears that Britain will take a hard line on the Brexit transition kept investors on edge.

[BENGALURU] European shares bucked a four day winning streak on Tuesday, weighed by Unilever after a sales warning, while fears that Britain will take a hard line on the Brexit transition kept investors on edge.

The pan-European stocks index pulled back from record highs hit in the previous session, falling 0.7 per cent.

Europe's personal and household goods sector tumbled 2.6 per cent, the most among regional subsectors, while also logging its worst day since early October.

Weighing on the sector was consumer goods giant Unilever, which slid 6.4 per cent after it warned that 2019 sales would grow less than it had expected, citing tough trading conditions in West Africa and a slowdown in south Asia.

Domestically focused UK stocks also slipped from all-time highs after reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would use his control of parliament to rule out any extension of the Brexit transition beyond 2020.

British banks Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group dropped.

"Given the short amount of time that Johnson has to agree a deal, investors are probably worried that a no-deal Brexit is not off the table," said Simona Gambarini, markets economist at Capital Economics in London.

London's blue-chip FTSE 100 index held steady, aided by a weaker pound. Data showed British employers unexpectedly took on more staff in the three months before the country's Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, suggesting the labour market was retaining some of its strength.

Global equity markets have had a record run recently, encouraged by a phase one trade deal between the United States and China and by Johnson's election victory last week, which raised hopes of an orderly British exit from the European Union.

However, a lack of clarity over the details of the US-China trade deal dampened initial optimism.

"Phase one of the trade deal has been cut but all the details aren't very clear," ING analysts said in a note, citing contradictory stances held by officials from both sides over future tariff reductions.

Airbus rose 1.8 per cent after Boeing said it would suspend production of its 737 MAX jetliner in January. Shares in aircraft-parts maker Safran fell about 1.5 per cent.

NMC Health Plc tumbled 32.4 per cent to the bottom of the Stoxx 600, after US short-seller Muddy Waters acquired a short position in the healthcare provider.

Austrian speciality steelmaker Voestalpine fell 2 per cent after it cut its full-year profit forecast and said it planned to lower its dividend payment.

REUTERS