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Russian sanctions dent European share recovery

[LONDON] Further US sanctions on Russian interests hit Europe-listed stocks on Monday, denting a recovery as investors became more hopeful a trade war between the United States and China could be averted.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index ended the day up just 0.1 per cent as sanctions that included a blacklisting of aluminium giant Rusal sent mining stocks spiralling lower.

Resilience among financials stocks was just enough to keep the market in positive territory.

Basic resources stocks sank 1.7 per cent, as a sector that has already seen sharp declines as a result of trade tensions hit its lowest level in four months.

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"Everything gets sold off in this environment," said John Meyer, mining analyst at SP Angel.

"The US list may not be the final list and it feels like there will be more sanctions so investors do not know which, if any, stocks to hold."

Stocks linked to allies of President Vladimir Putin suffered sharp declines.

London-listed shares in En+ Group, which manages the assets of Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, sank 42 per cent after the US sanctions blacklist targeted the magnate whose business empire has a global footprint.

The stock has lost more than half its value since Friday's open, with management saying the sanctions were "highly likely" to materially affect the business and prospects in an adverse way.

Shares in Swiss pump maker Sulzer and technology group Oerlikon were also sharply down, falling 8.5 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively after their majority holder Viktor Vekselberg appeared on the sanctions list.

Companies with significant operations in Russia were also punished. Precious metals miner Polymetal sank 18 per cent, the worst Stoxx faller, while Raiffeisen Bank tumbled 12 per cent.

Shares in Carlsberg, which sells a lot of its beer in Russia and is sensitive to the rouble, significantly lagged beverage sector peers. They declined 1.1 per cent as the currency suffered its biggest one-day fall in three years.

Aluminium maker Norsk Hydro benefited from sanctions hitting rival Rusal.

The Norwegian company's shares shot up 6.6 per cent to the top of the European index as traders said there was a positive readacross. Miner Rio Tinto was also seen as a beneficiary, and its shares rose 1.1 per cent.

Overall, investors were more positive on the potential for stocks to recover, looking ahead to the start of the first-quarter earnings season as a likely positive catalyst.

"Equities are looking oversold just as a very strong reporting season is beginning," wrote JP Morgan analysts.

"Global earnings delivery plus US buybacks could catalyze recovery."

Financial stocks provided the most support to the market with Deutsche Bank up 1.2 per cent after it named a new CEO who said tough decisions would have to be made and the structure of its investment bank reviewed.

Portuguese energy and utility group EDP gained 3.8 per cent after a report French utility Engie was examining a possible bid.

Also on the M&A front, Novartis ended the day down 0.1 per cent, giving up earlier gains after announcing a US$8.7 billion deal for AveXis, a move into gene therapy that gives the Swiss drugmaker a rare-disease treatment seen reaping billions in sales and bolsters its technology base.

BillerudKorsnas fell 7.8 per cent after a downgrade to "sell" from an SEB analyst.

REUTERS