European shares snap winning run

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London - European stocks snapped a week-long winning streak on Thursday, weighed down by a batch of disappointing updates from blue-chip companies including Swiss food group Nestle and French bank BNP Paribas.

Shares in Nestle fell 2.1 percent after it said it may undershoot its long-term growth targets again this year due to weaker demand from emerging markets and price pressures in Europe.

French spirits group Pernod Ricard also warned about weak demand in China on Thursday as it cut its annual profit growth goal. After a sharp drop in early trade, shares in the group rebounded, with analysts at Liberum saying long-term investors could find an attractive entry point at the current price.

An MSCI basket of stocks with the highest proportion of sales from emerging countries has fallen by more than two percent this year, underperforming the broader market, as signs of a slowdown in China and capital flight from other emerging countries saw traders ditch assets linked to those regions.

European equities with emerging exposure:

“Our view is that there will be some further disappointment from companies exposed to emerging markets in the fourth quarter (2013). Difficult to assess, however, what is now included in share prices as this thematic is very well known” Yann Belvisi, a strategist at CM-CIC Securities in Paris said.

“Consensus is becoming very bearish on these stocks but we don't expect (emerging market) economies to bottom too low, so opportunities should materialise later in the year.”

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.7 percent at 1,317.19 points at 13:32 SA time, falling for the first time in seven sessions. The Euro STOXX 50 index was down 0.9 percent at 3,068.07.

Britain's Rolls Royce, the world's second-largest aircraft engine maker, was the top faller on the FTSEurofirst 300, down 13.3 percent, after it forecast declining defence aerospace and marine revenues in 2014.

Also weighing on the index were banks after weak updates from BNP Paribas, Belgium's KBC and Britain's LLoyds Banking Group, down between 1.7 percent and 4.4 percent.

European commercial banks were seen missing consensus expectations by 18 percent this quarter, according to StarMine's SmartEstimates, which are based on the forecasts of the analysts with the best track record.

The STOXX Europe 600 banking index has risen nearly 30 percent since late June 2013 as investors piled into stocks exposed to the European domestic recovery.

Bucking the sector trend was Germany's Commerzbank, which rose 2.8 percent after posting a small profit in the fourth quarter of 2013 and showing its restructuring had gained traction.

ITALY LAGS

Italy's FTSE MIB was the worst performer among major European indexes as it fell 1.2 percent on uncertainty over the stability of its government.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta's position has come under increasing pressure following repeated criticisms by his party secretary Matteo Renzi of the slow pace of economic reforms.

The leadership committee of Letta's Democratic Party meets at 16:00 SA time to decide whether Letta has the backing of his party to continue.

Banks such as Intesa Sanpaolo, heavily exposed to the country's sovereign debt, weighed on the index, which hit a 2-1/2 year high on Wednesday.

A solid auction of Italian debt earlier on Thursday, however, suggested investors were keeping their faith in Italy despite the fresh wave of political uncertainty as the prospect of fresh elections remained remote.

“It's a tail risk so far and it would only become a real risk if we had elections, which seems unlikely,” said Wouter Sturkenboom, investment strategist at Russel Investments, which manages around $256 billion dollars worth of assets.

“If Renzi becomes prime minister it could actually be a positive because he might be a little bit more forceful on the reform agenda.” - Reuters


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