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European shares hit 20-month lows as Wall Street rout sparks sell-off

Stock MarketsOct 11, 2018 10:23
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By Danilo Masoni

MILAN (Reuters) - European shares hit their lowest in more than 20 months on Thursday following a rout on Wall Street as jitters over rising U.S. Treasury yields and signs of slowing global growth sparked a broad selloff of risky assets.

Most sectors in Europe were trading in the red, with tech stocks bearing the brunt of early morning selling pressure after the big U.S. technology stocks that have been the driving force behind a multi-year bull market posted heavy losses overnight.

By 0845 GMT, the euro zone STOXX (STOXXE) index fell 1.2 percent, while the UK's FTSE 100 (FTSE) was down 1.6 percent, extending its slide as the pound finds support in expectations that Britain would reach a Brexit deal with the European Union.

The pan-European STOXX 600 (STOXX) benchmark index was down 1.4 percent to its lowest level since the end of January 2017.

Even though Wall Street posted on Wednesday its biggest drop in eight months, sparking a global equity sell-off, the S&P 500 (SPX) remains up 4.3 percent so far this year, while euro zone stocks have lost 7 percent.

European stocks have been penalised by political turmoil and the region's vulnerability to trade risks, while tax cuts, share buybacks and a booming economy have boosted U.S. stocks.

"The gap between the performance of U.S. and Eurozone equities is no coincidence," said Patrick Moonen, multi-asset strategist at Dutch asset manager NN Investment Partners.

"We think that for this picture to turn around in favour of Europe we need to see a gradual rise in bond yields (providing support to financials) accompanied by signs the economy is not slowing and lower political risks," he added.

Euro zone third-quarter earnings are expected to rise 12 percent, nearly half the 21 percent growth rate expected for the United States, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

European stocks have also been hit recently by worries over China and their exposure to emerging markets.

Signs of market stress were further underscored on Thursday by a rise in volatility gauges for euro zone stocks.

Europe's tech index (SX8P) fell as much as 3.4 percent, before paring some losses as Ingenico (PA:INGC) rallied 12.4 percent after Natixis (PA:CNAT) said it was examining a merger of its payments activities with the financial and payments firm.

Defensive sectors such as healthcare, telecom and real estate were also lower, but outperformed the broader market, as investors sought to limit the damage by turning to stocks that are attractively valued and are less exposed to slowdown in global growth.

Earlier this week the IMF cut its global economic growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019, saying that trade policy tensions and the imposition of import tariffs were taking a toll on commerce.

Among the biggest sectoral fallers were oil stocks (SXEP), down 2.3 percent, as oil fell to two-week lows, while banks (SX7P) fell 1.9 percent.

Bayer (DE:BAYGn) rose 4.5 percent after its Monsanto (NYSE:MON) unit received a tentative ruling for a new trial on $250 million in punitive damages in a U.S. weed-killer case.

Top faller on the STOXX was UK recruiter Hays (L:HAYS).

Its shares fell 12 percent after the company reported a slower quarterly fee growth rate, hurt by a relatively stronger pound against other foreign currencies.

European shares hit 20-month lows as Wall Street rout sparks sell-off

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