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Tech, trade fears weighed on European shares

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[LONDON] European stocks retreated on Tuesday as investors began the second quarter in a fragile mood amid international trade tensions and mounting pressure on big technology companies.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the day down 0.5 per cent after falling more than one per cent earlier in the session. The index was supported in afternoon trading by a slight rebound on Wall Street.

Germany's DAX was a clear underperformer, losing about 0.8 per cent while industrials, financials and healthcare stocks weighed on European indexes.

The tech sector dropped 0.8 per cent, after an overnight report that Apple plans to replace Intel chips in Macs with its own.

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The index has fallen about 7.5 per cent in the past three weeks as anxiety grew over big tech companies with the focus on Facebook's use of data, and regulation of Amazon.

Reports of Apple increasingly going down the "insourcing" route have dented shares in Apple suppliers around the world, most notably Europe's Dialog Semiconductor, down 3.5 per cent.

STMicro shed 2.9 per cent, while ams declined 2.3 per cent and Infineon fell 2.1 per cent.

Risk appetite was poor across the board, as European investors followed US and Asian investors to the exit after China retaliated against US tariffs.

"We believe that risk-reward for stocks has not turned medium-term negative, and would be adding at these levels," wrote JP Morgan strategists in a note.

Equities have again entered "oversold" territory, they said, adding, however, that headwinds for technology stocks were increasing.

Outside the tech sector, food services group Sodexo 4.5 per cent after Goldman Sachs (GS) cut the stock to"neutral". Sodexo had already suffered a 15.7 per cent decline after warning on profit in the previous session.

"We now see the pick-up of competitive pressures is unlikely to go away in the short term, while company profit continues to suffer from intensifying labour inflation in the region," GS analysts wrote.

Air France shares fell 4.4 per cent. The carrier's unions called a strike for wage increases amid a wider labour stoppage across France paralysing rail services.

Acquisition news also continued to move the European market.

Eurofins Scientific shares fell 2.1 per cent, the worst performers on the Stoxx, after the firm acquired Lab Frontier in South Korea.

Italy's largest private broadcaster Mediaset rose 6.4 per cent, after signing a content-sharing deal with Sky's Italian unit and paving the way for a broader alliance.

Liberum analysts called the deal a "win-win".

"This agreement should be a TV advertising revenue booster as it creates larger audiences," they wrote.

Berenberg upgraded Mediaset to a "buy", saying the deal marked a "step change in profitability".

Also in Italy, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles jumped 7.3 per cent after reporting strong US sales.

REUTERS