European shares fall from records on Unilever warning, hard Brexit

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| The European | 17 December 2019

European shares pulled back after a record run on Tuesday as a sales warning from Unilever prompted investors to sell big consumer names, while concern that Britain will take a hard line on the Brexit transition dragged down UK domestic stocks.

The pan-European equities index fell 0.6% after soaring to record highs in the previous session.

The biggest weak spot was consumer goods giant Unilever . Its shares tumbled 6%, on course for their biggest percentage drop since July 2015, after the company warned that 2019 sales would grow less than it had expected, citing tough trading conditions in West Africa and a slowdown in south Asia.

Europe’s personal and household goods sector fell 2.1%, the most among regional subsectors.

“With Unilever, it’s a combination of technical breakdown on the charts, you’ve got the warning and the time of the warning is not ideal because the markets have already been rotating out of big UK defensive names,” Mark Taylor, sales trader at Mirabaud Securities.

Taylor, however, suggested Tuesday’s broader market moves were “just reassessing some of the outsized moves that we’ve seen in the last few days.”

Global equity markets reached record highs on Tuesday, encouraged by phase one of a trade agreement between the United States and China and by Boris Johnson’s victory in UK elections last week, which raised hopes for an orderly exit by Britain from the European Union.

Domestically focused UK stocks, also at record highs, succumbed to selling pressure on Tuesday after reports that Johnson would use his control of parliament to rule out any extension of the Brexit transition beyond 2020.

British banks Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group slid more than 3%.

London’s blue-chip index, the FTSE 100 held steady, aided by a weaker pound. The latest data showed Britain’s employers unexpectedly took on more staff in the three months before the country’s Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, suggesting the labour market was retaining some of its strength.

Airbus rose 0.5% after Boeing said it would suspend production of its 737 MAX jetliner in January. Shares in aircraft-parts maker Safran fell about 4%.

Ryanair, Air France and Lufthansa were all weaker as well.

Shares in Austrian specialty steelmaker Voestalpine fell 3.1% after it cut its full-year profit forecast and said it planned to lower its dividend payment.

German defence group Rheinmetall was the top gainer on the STOXX 600, up 2.3%, after Goldman Sachs started coverage with a “buy” rating.

 

Source: Reuters

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