- Broad selloff sends almost 590 of Stoxx 600 shares retreating
- All western-European markets fall; DAX at lowest since 2014
The rout fueled by concern over the strength of the economic recovery took European stocks to their lowest levels in more than a year, with Greek shares again suffering the most.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slid 3.5 percent to 314.36 at the close of trading and Greece’s ASE Index plunged to its lowest level since 1990. No industry or market in western Europe was spared. While Greek lenders extended a record low, banks in the region dropped to their lowest levels since 2012.
With a 7.9 percent plunge today, Greece’s ASE Index has once again become the year’s worst performer of 93 global equity gauges tracked by Bloomberg. While national benchmark gauges of Italy and Spain lost at least 4.4 percent, the slides weren’t limited to so-called peripheral regions. Germany’s DAX Index fell 3.3 percent to its lowest level since 2014. Commerzbank AG plunged 9.5 percent, the most in almost three years, after Keefe, Bruyette & Woods lowered its rating on the stock to the equivalent of a sell.
“Investors can’t make up their minds about the global economy, but the risk of recession and deflation is rising,” said Francois Savary, the chief investment officer of Prime Partners SA, a Geneva-based investment manager. “It’s not enough that valuations have receded quite significantly and earnings haven’t been too bad -- sentiment is very low and there isn’t much visibility right now. That’s frightening.”
Gauges of construction-related companies and banks posted the worst performances of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx 600. A measure of lenders closed at its lowest since 2012, led by Greece’s Eurobank Ergasias SA and Alpha Bank AE.
Global equities retreated last week in volatile trading amid investor concern over oil prices, earnings and the strength of the U.S. and Chinese economies. The Sentix index of investor confidence in the euro area dropped to the lowest in more than a year in February, data showed today, and the Stoxx 600 is now trading at 13.8 times estimated earnings, about 21 percent below its April 2015 peak. A gauge tracking equity swings has jumped 51 percent this year as European shares slid about 14 percent.
Among stocks moving on corporate news today, Imagination Technologies Group Plc dropped 1.9 percent, paring losses of as much as 18 percent, after forecasting a “material reduction” in sales and profitability for the full year. The company also said its chief executive officer has stepped down. Assa Abloy AB slid 9.8 percent, the most since 2008, after the world’s largest lockmaker said Chinese sales continued to fall in the fourth quarter.
Randgold Resources Ltd. rose 13 percent, the most since March 2009, after saying it more than doubled its spare cash last year, allowing the metals producer to increase its dividend by 10 percent. Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA advanced 2.7 percent as it agreed to sell its stake in a Thai supermarket chain for 3.1 billion euros ($3.5 billion).