Most European stocks fell, dragging the Stoxx Europe 600 Index lower for a third day, as bank shares retreated on rising concern that the region’s sovereign-debt crisis is harming the economy.
Credit Suisse Group AG and Bank of Ireland paced a retreat among financial shares. Eiffage SA tumbled 2.4 percent as construction and materials stocks fell. AstraZeneca Plc declined 1.1 percent after Exane BNP Paribas advised selling shares of the U.K.’s second-largest drugmaker.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.1 percent to 261.07 at the 4:30 p.m. close in London, extending yesterday’s 1.4 percent slump, as two shares fell for every one that gained. The measure has dropped 4.1 percent from this year’s high in April on mounting evidence of a slowdown in the economy as European governments slash spending and China moves to cool its growth.
“People massively underestimated these sovereign risks last year and it’s been like opening Pandora’s box,” said London-based David Hussey, head of European equities at MFC Global Investment Management, which manages about $287 billion in assets. “It is serious and at some point in the future the likes of Ireland and Greece will probably restructure their debts.”
Stocks pared losses from earlier today after a measure of U.S. leading indicators rose in August more than forecast, suggesting that the world’s largest economy may keep expanding through early next year, while a separate report showed existing home sales grew. The better-than-estimated data overshadowed a report that showed an unexpected increase in jobless claims, a sign companies remain cautious about hiring as growth slows.
National benchmark indexes fell in all 18 western European markets except Norway. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX fell 0.4 percent and France’s CAC declined 0.7 percent.
Growth in Europe’s services and manufacturing industries weakened more than economists forecast in September, adding to signs the recovery in the region is losing steam.
A composite index based on a survey of euro-area purchasing managers in both industries declined to 53.8 from 56.2 in August, London-based Markit Economics said today. Economists expected a reading of 55.7, according to the median of 15 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Separate reports showed U.K. mortgage approvals fell to a 16-month low in August as the housing market weakened, while Ireland’s gross domestic product shrank 1.2 percent in the second quarter.
Portuguese, Italian and Spanish 10-year bond yields rose relative to benchmark German bunds as the weaker-than-forecast economic data raised concern the nations may struggle to trim their budget deficits as growth slows. The Irish-German spread widened to a record 418 basis points, or 4.18 percentage points. The Portuguese-German spread also reached a record 402 basis points.
German bunds rose for a third day as the government said it will sell less debt than previously planned, highlighting the widening gulf in the fiscal health of euro-region nations. Germany cut scheduled issuance of bonds and bills for the fourth quarter by 33 percent to 60 billion euros ($80 billion) after “favorable developments” in the federal budget reduced the need to borrow.
Credit Suisse dropped 3.2 percent to 43.3 Swiss francs. Bank of Ireland lost 5.5 percent to 60 euro cents, the largest drop on the Stoxx 600. A measure of bank shares on the Stoxx 600 index declined 0.7 percent, the second-biggest decline among 19 industries.
Eiffage lost 2.4 percent to 35.34 euros as a gauge of construction shares fell 0.8 percent. CRH, the world’s second- largest maker and distributor of building materials, fell 1.1 percent to 12.68 euros.
AstraZeneca retreated 1.1 percent to 3,313 pence. Exane downgraded its recommendation on the shares to “underperform” from “neutral.”
Henderson Group dropped 5 percent to 123.7 pence, the second-worst performer on the Stoxx 600, as Citigroup Inc. lowered its recommendation for the asset manager to “hold” from “buy.”
Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, the U.K.’s largest independent fund-management company, climbed 2.4 percent to 152.4 pence after the FT Alphaville blog reported Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. may raise its stake in the company.
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