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Coronavirus: European stocks sink after four days of gains

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Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
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A woman runs in Canary Wharf, during rush hour,  in London, Wednesday March 25, 2020. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)
Britain saw a record contraction in GDP in the second quarter. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA via AP

Leading European stocks opened in the red on Thursday, with a US tariff announcement breaking four consecutive days of gains.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) shed 1%, France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) lost 0.3% and Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down 0.2% on the open.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 (^STOXX) dropped 0.4%, breaking a four-day winning streak.

UK stocks were dragged down as a string of firms including BP (BP.L), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB.L), AstraZeneca (AZN.L), and Legal & General (LGEN.L) began trading ex-dividend.

The US government’s confirmation it will keep 15% tariffs on planes and 25% tariffs on other EU goods hit stocks across the continent. It came on top of wider gloom over UK GDP numbers released on Wednesday, showing Britain’s worst recession since current records began in 1955.

The dire UK figures had been overshadowed on Wednesday by a Wall Street rally and strong UK corporate earnings data, which left European indices trading higher the previous day.

Fresh corporate earnings on Thursday also weighed on European stocks. Zurich Insurance (ZURN.SW) saw its first-half operating profits slide 40%, while travel giant TUI (TUI.L) saw €1.4bn pre-tax losses in its third quarter. Meanwhile stocks tumbled 12.2% in UK bus giant National Express (NEX.L) as it posted first-half losses.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: UK economy officially enters recession after record 20.4% contraction

Stocks had been mixed overnight in Asia. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) rose 1.8%, the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was flat and the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) shed 0.2%.

Wall Street looked set to open unchanged on Thursday. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) Dow Jones futures (YM=F) and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were all trading flat.

US investors were awaiting new data on weekly jobless claims. “The big concern now is that given the expiry of the enhanced $600 a week unemployment benefits, combined with reversals in hiring in the wake of new lockdowns, is that these numbers could start to rise again,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.