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European shares end tumultuous week at six-month low


[MILAN] European shares fell to their lowest level in almost six months on Friday after a roller coaster week marred by a historic spike in volatility on worries a comeback of inflation would speed a shift to tighter monetary policies.

Redemptions from European Equity funds reached 80-week highs, data from EPFR showed, while the pan-regional Stoxx 600 index ended at 368.61 points, down 1.5 per cent on the day and 5 per cent on the week, its worst week in two years.

"It has certainly been a chaotic trading week for the global equity markets, amid fears of mounting inflationary pressures and higher interest rates," FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga said.

The euro zone volatility gauge rose on Friday to its highest level since the Brexit vote before ending at 34.7 points.

This week's sell-off followed a stronger-than-expected jobs report in the US earlier this month that fuelled worries over inflation and concerns the Federal Reserve will raise rates in the world's largest economy at a faster pace than expected.

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On Thursday the Bank of England said it was likely to raise interest rates sooner.

Investors are concerned that tighter monetary policies could hit equities whose valuations have been boosted by years of loose financial conditions. So far this year the pan-European benchmark is down 5.3 per cent.

Banks, whose lending businesses benefit from rising rates, ended the week down 4.6 per cent, in line with the broader market weakness following a strong start to the year.

"As rates begin to normalise (and that's what they are doing) bank margins should begin to recover. So ... the banks represent an oasis of opportunity in a tumultuous market," said Rob James, financials analyst and manager at Old Mutual.

Citi strategists said in the medium term financials should do well, keeping their overweight rating on the sector within their positive stance on cyclicals.

On Friday, Italian investment bank Mediobanca rose 0.7 per cent after it raised its dividend guidance and quarterly profit beat forecasts on higher net interest income and fees.

UBI Banca declined 0.4 per cent as it planned to sell a "substantial package" of bad loans over the next three years in an acceleration of efforts to clean up its balance sheet.

Still among financials, French asset manager Amundi lost 5.8 per cent after publishing its annual results and new financial targets.

Energy shares fell as oil prices dropped for a sixth day after Iran announced plans to boost production and US crude output hit record highs.

The oil and gas index lost 1.9 per cent with Royal Dutch Shell and BP both down more than 2 per cent.

AP Moller-Maersk missed fourth-quarter profit expectations and edged 0.3 per cent lower.

Belgium's Umicore jumped 7.8 per cent after raising 892 million euros in equity for new investments in rechargeable battery materials at a discount of only 2.7 per cent to Thursday's closing price.

Shares in French cosmetics group L'Oreal rose 0.3 per cent after its fourth-quarter sales beat expectations and comments by its CEO regarding its intentions on Nestle's stake further buoyed the stock.

According to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, European earnings growth forecasts for the fourth quarter have been revised to 11 per cent from nearly 18 per cent a few months ago. Earning beats so far have been below the 50 per cent of the typical quarter.


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