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Europe: Stocks take a breather as tech, healthcare weigh

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European shares pulled back from three-month highs on Monday, with losses in technology and healthcare stocks halting a recent rally on hopes of a post-coronavirus economic recovery.

[BENGALURU] European shares pulled back from three-month highs on Monday, with losses in technology and healthcare stocks halting a recent rally on hopes of a post-coronavirus economic recovery.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.3 per cent lower, as investors moved out of sectors that remained resilient during the coronavirus-led sell-off earlier this year, while bidding up laggards such as banks and oil and gas firms.

Europe's healthcare index dropped 0.6 per cent, with AstraZeneca sliding 2.7 per cent after Bloomberg reported it had approached US rival Gilead Sciences about a possible merger to form one the world's largest drug companies.

Tech stocks were led lower by chipmakers ASML, ASM International and STMicroelectronics, which fell more than 4 per cent. Europe's tech index is just 4.5 per cent below its all-time high.

Meanwhile, euro zone banks jumped 2 per cent, helping lender-heavy bourses in Spain and Italy outperform, supported by a bigger-than-expected pandemic-related stimulus by the European Central Bank last week.

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"We find the year-to-date underperformance of the European banks, and the ECB actions, have created a compelling trading opportunity to buy," KBW analysts wrote in a client note.

Euro zone stocks have rallied 39 per cent from March lows, while the broader European index has climbed about 33 per cent as countries reopened from weeks-long lockdowns, while improving economic data and fresh stimulus raised hopes the worst is over.

"We see scope for further upside if economic normalisation continues, governments in major economies do not need to reimpose lockdowns, and central bank policy remains loose," noted Mark Haefele, chief investment officer of Global Wealth Management at UBS.

"But the rally does increase the importance of selectivity within the market.

Oil majors Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total rose between 0.7 per cent and 3 per cent as crude prices climbed after major producers agreed to extend a deal on record output cuts.

BP also got a boost as Reuters reported it would cut about 15 per cent of its workforce in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Shares in travel and leisure stocks Carnival, Lufthansa and CineWorld rose between 8 per cent and 9 per cent, topping gainers on the Stoxx 600.

Danske Bank jumped 7.5 per cent after Estonian bank LHV agreed to buy its Estonian corporate and public sector credit portfolio.

German card payments company Wirecard dropped 1.7 per cent after prosecutors opened proceedings against its entire management board as part of a market manipulation probe.

REUTERS

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