Europe Stocks Slide With Retailers on Thin Volume Before Holiday

  • Next slumps after cutting full-year sales growth forecast
  • Volkswagen down after failing to reach agreement with the U.S.

European Close: Currency Volatility: Pound vs. Dollar

Retailers led a fourth day of declines in European shares in a holiday-shortened week.

Next Plc led retail shares to the worst performance among Stoxx Europe 600 Index groups, down 15 percent after cutting its annual sales-growth forecast. Marks & Spencer Group Plc and Associated British Foods Plc, owner of clothing chain Primark, slid 4.9 percent or more. Volkswagen AG dropped 2 percent after it failed to reach an agreement with U.S. authorities over its tainted diesel engines.

Europe’s benchmark dropped 1.5 percent at the close of trading. The volume of shares changing hands was a third percent lower than the 30-day average. Markets are closed tomorrow for Good Friday, with some including Norway and Denmark shut today as well.

The Stoxx 600 capped its longest losing streak in six weeks as investors awaited the European earnings season and speculated on the pace of Federal Reserve rate hikes. It hasn’t posted back-to-back gains since it reached a two-month high on March 14, signaling a loss of momentum for the rally that more than halved its 2016 decline.

“It might make sense to take some chips off the table after you have made decent money, given the rally we have seen in the last six weeks,” said Pierre Mouton, who manages about $9 billion at Notz, Stucki & Cie. in Geneva. “We also have the earnings season coming up and it could be disappointing so investors are thinking it’s better to book profits now.”

Analysts have slashed their estimates for European corporate earnings in 2016. They are now projecting a profit decline of 0.9 percent for Stoxx 600 firms, compared with an increase of 5.7 percent at the start of the year.

The Stoxx 600 fell 1.9 percent this week for a second straight decline, trimming its first monthly advance since November. It rebounded as much as 14 percent since a Feb. 11 low amid optimism about central-bank policies.

Lenders, the worst performers of 2016, declined to a one-month low. Banco Popolare SC slipped 4.8 percent after agreeing to buy Banca Popolare di Milano Scarl, which slid 5.4 percent. Standard Chartered Plc tumbled 7.8 percent after peer Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. warned of higher bad-debt provisions because of low commodity prices.

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