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Europe: Sliding banks, tumbling tech drag stocks to three-week low


[LONDON] European stocks fell on Tuesday, with banks weighing heavily on worries about slowing economic growth, fading earnings momentum, Italy's budget, and a lower likelihood of rate hikes in Europe next year.

The pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.7 per cent by 0945 GMT, to a three-week low, with Germany's DAX down 1.2 per cent and Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.5 per cent.

Though European stocks have substantially lagged the US this year and valuations have fallen, investors said it was too early for the region to be an attractive value play.

"It would have to be table-thumpingly cheap to make valuations themselves offset people's skepticism about Europe's ability to grow," said Kevin Gardiner, global investment strategist at Rothschild & Co Wealth Management.

Europe's bank stocks index sank 1.8 per cent, set for its worst fall in five weeks, with Italian lenders down 2.5 per cent at their lowest level since the end of November 2016.

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Italian government bond yields soared as investors fled its sovereign debt again with Rome showing no signs of backing down in a budget row with the European Commission.

Mediobanca, Unicredit, Banco BPM , and UBI Banca fell 2.5 to 5 per cent.

Deutsche Bank fell 4.4 per cent to a record low of 8.195.

Weak earnings also hurt the bank sector.

Swiss bank and wealth manager Julius Baer fell 5.4 per cent after it said it was cutting spending under adverse market conditions, warning it may not achieve its cost-income target this year.

"Market estimates are set to drop significantly," wrote Baader Helvea analysts.

"There are clear challenges within the Wealth Management sphere which look set to continue short term," wrote KBW analysts.

Anxieties about iPhone growth at Apple swept tech stocks, another big drag on the region.

The sector fell 2 per cent to its lowest level since the end of February. Stocks supplying chips to Apple were among the worst-performing. STMicroelectronics shares tumbled 3 per cent, Infineon fell 3 per cent and AMS lost 3 per cent.

The tech sector is down 8 per cent this year, lagging oil, healthcare, media, and utilities.

French carmaker Renault remained under pressure, down 3.5 per cent as Exane and BAML analysts downgraded the stock. It fell 8.4 per cent on Monday when CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested on allegations of financial misconduct.

German payments firm Wirecard's shares fell 4.5 per cent to the bottom of the DAX after the company said it expected core earnings between 740 and 800 million euros, implying profits growth of 37.5 per cent – at the midpoint of the expected range.

Overall earnings growth expectations for MSCI Europe have been falling recently as analysts readjust their estimates to a bleaker picture for the global economy.

"We expect low equity returns across all regions for 2019," wrote Goldman Sachs analysts.

"With slow profit growth, investors are likely to focus on a deterioration in the growth and inflation mix."


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