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Europe: Trade war sell-off hits shares hard

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[LONDON] European shares slid further on Monday as investors on both sides of the Atlantic grew increasingly fearful of the threat of a global trade war and its impact on the world economy.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index dropped 2 per cent, with Britain's FTSE and Frankfurt's DAX down respectively 2.3 per cent and 2.4 per cent.

"Things worsened as the US markets got involved this Monday", said Connor Campbell, an analyst for Spreadex, adding that losses turned "uglier as the afternoon wore on".

Wall Street opened deep in the red and the Nasdaq was down 2.2 per cent by the time of the European close.

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A report that US President Donald Trump planned to bar many Chinese companies from investing in US technology firms and block more tech exports to Beijing hit Asian stocks overnight.

Europe's tech sector, which is mainly composed of hardware firms sensitive to trade barriers, fell 2.7 per cent on the news, which could herald higher costs for companies.

Chipmakers BE Semiconductor, Siltronic, Infineon, STMicro and ASML were big fallers, down 3 per cent to 9 per cent.

Harley-Davidson Inc said on Monday it would move production of motorcycles shipped to the European Union from the United States to its international facilities and forecast the trading bloc's retaliatory tariffs would cost the company US$90 million to US$100 million a year.

The autos sector, a key target for Mr Trump who said on Friday he aimed to hike tariffs on EU car imports by 20 per cent, fell 2.4 per cent, marking its seventh straight day of losses.

Analysts have downgraded their expectations for global autos stocks earnings worldwide as the trade war has deepened in recent weeks.

Investors have grown more risk-averse with the increasing tensions over trade, driving some to reconsider their pro-cyclical positioning.

"We recommend buying into trade-newsflow-driven market weakness as the stronger growth is what should ultimately prevail," said JP Morgan equity strategist Mislav Matejka.

Among individual stocks, French satellite group Eutelsat fell 6.2 per cent after it confirmed it was considering making an offer for its British rival Inmarsat. Its possible target rose 4.3 per cent.

Italian cable maker Prysmian fell 10 per cent after it cut its guidance due to additional expected costs related to issues with its UK WesternLink undersea cable project.

Among stand-out gainers, Danish medical equipment maker Ambu jumped 6.5 per cent to the top of the Stoxx after JP Morgan started coverage of it with an "overweight" rating.

Telenet gained 5.1 per cent after starting a 300 million-euro share buy-back program.

REUTERS