European stocks fell for a third day, the longest streak since March, with Barclays Plc helping push shares lower, while tension in Ukraine escalated.
Barclays fell the most since July after reporting that pretax profit dropped. Balfour Beatty Plc sank 20 percent after its chief executive officer quit and the company cut its earnings forecast. Deutsche Lufthansa AG rose 3 percent after saying its first-quarter loss narrowed. PostNL NV rallied the most since October.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.3 percent to 336.04 at the close of trading, after earlier gaining as much as 0.3 percent. The gauge fell 0.7 percent in the past three days amid intensifying violence in Ukraine. The U.K. market reopened after being closed for a holiday yesterday.
“Company earnings were mixed today,” Alessandro Fezzi, senior market analyst at LGT Bank Schweiz AG in Zurich, said in an interview. “Despite a good start to the day, Ukraine is still weighing on sentiment, making it difficult to keep a positive market direction.”
The volume of shares changing hands in Stoxx 600 companies was 18 percent lower than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
A report showed retail sales in the euro area climbed 0.3 percent in March from the previous month, compared with a revised 0.1 percent gain in February. The median economist forecast called for a 0.2 percent drop.
In Ukraine, four government servicemen died yesterday in fighting that may have killed about 30 rebels, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook account. Neighboring Moldova put its borders on alert.
French President Francois Hollande warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Europe would continue to pressure him to let Ukraine hold a May 25 presidential election, while Russia said the nation should postpone it until it changes its constitution. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama have set the vote as the trigger for possible economic sanctions against Russia if it fails to pull back its support for separatists.
National benchmark indexes retreated in 12 of the 18 western-European markets today. France’s CAC 40 slid 0.8 percent and Germany’s DAX dropped 0.7 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent.
Barclays lost 5.2 percent to 245 pence. Britain’s second-biggest bank said quarterly pretax profit, excluding swings in the valuation of the lender’s debt, dropped to 1.69 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) from 1.79 billion pounds in the year-earlier period. That missed the 1.82 billion-pound estimate of analysts provided by the bank.
Balfour Beatty slumped 20 percent, the most since October 1998, to 228.6 pence. Andrew McNaughton stepped down as CEO after 13 months. The British construction company forecast 2014 pretax profit will be between 145 million pounds and 160 million pounds, compared with adjusted pretax profit of 187 million pounds last year.
Boliden AB declined 4.8 percent to 92.50 kronor. The Swedish copper and zinc producer posted first-quarter net income of 152 million kronor ($23.4 million), trailing the 303.3 million kronor that analysts had estimated.
Alstom SA slipped 2.2 percent to 28.72 euros. President Hollande said General Electric Co.’s $17 billion bid for the company’s energy business isn’t sufficient. He said offers, including the counterproposal from Germany’s Siemens AG, must provide further job guarantees.
Lufthansa advanced 3 percent to 18.15 euros. Europe’s second-largest carrier said its first-quarter operating loss fell to 245 million euros ($341 million) from 359 million euros a year earlier. Analysts on average had predicted 283.4 million euros.
PostNL rallied 10 percent to 3.39 euros. The Dutch mail service with operations in the U.K. and Germany reported first-quarter net income of 54 million euros, compared with a restated loss of 410 million euros a year earlier.
Royal DSM NV rose 4.2 percent to 52.90 euros. The world’s largest vitamin maker said the market for nutritional supplements showed signs of improvement at the end of the first quarter. Food manufacturers began restocking supplies, helping lift first-quarter volumes almost 14 percent compared with the prior quarter, the company said today.