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LIVE MARKETS-Coronavirus sell-off: Blame humans, not algos

* European shares turn lower after positive start * Sentiment fragile on worries of global virus pandemic * STOXX 600 falls to lowest since Dec. 12, down 0.9% Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters. You can share your thoughts with Thyagaraju Adinarayan (thyagaraju.adinarayan@tr.com), Joice Alves (joice.alves@tr.com), Julien Ponthus (julien.ponthus@tr.com) in London and Danilo Masoni (danilo.masoni@tr.com) in Milan. CORONAVIRUS SELL-OFF: BLAME HUMANS, NOT ALGOS (1108 GMT) "We think it is unlikely that algorithmic investors (trend-following algos such as CTAs and risk-parity funds) are the main culprits behind the selloff", a Nomura research note argues this morning. "The main trigger seems to have been human decisions and nontechnical factors", the note finds, adding that the algos may however have exacerbated the downward trend by responding to the market move. In a nutshell, some humans seem more prone than robots to believe that the recent spread of the coronavirus to Italy, South Korea and Iran could be a tipping point or a game changer that takes us from "a momentary depressive effect on the economy" to a "global economic collapse". "We get the impression that a wide range of investors are now factoring in a previously unthinkable scenario", Nomura writes, pointing out that its "gauge of global equity sentiment shows an unusual deterioration pattern". In the absence of bullish hedge funds willing to buy the dip, "we see a risk that this bearish contagion could infect the entire hedge fund population", it added. (Julien Ponthus) ***** PUFF! BACK IN THE RED (0932 GMT) Sentiment is so fragile that it took nothing to bring European markets back in the red as fears of a global coronavirus pandemic look unlikely to go away anytime soon. Early gains have rapidly evaporated and the STOXX 600 is now down 0.3%, as you see in this chart, in a broad based sell-off with most sectors in the red. (Danilo Masoni) ***** OPENING SNAPSHOT: STEADY (0827 GMT) Not bad, markets are still clinging on to gains and sectors that got hammered yesterday are bouncing back, but only slightly. For instance, the STOXX 600 travel & leisure index is up just 0.8% versus the 6% drop yesterday. Among single stocks, Meggitt's shares are down 4.6% after the British engineering company's warning on impact from Boeing's 737 MAX production halt and the disruption caused by coronavirus. After being hit hard initially on weak dividend, Hammerson shares have turned positive. A London-based trader says most of the negatives are already priced in. Not many big fallers, but on a sector level, autos and banks are the underperformers. (Thyagaraju Adinarayan) ***** ON OUR RADAR: AIRLINES BOUNCE BACK, MEGGITT, PRUDENTIAL (0758 GMT) Futures indicate 0.6% to 0.8% gain for European bourses at open as stocks attempt to bounce back from the massive drop on Monday that took the pan-European STOXX 600 into negative territory for 2020 and wiped almost half-a-trillion dollars. Airlines are seen rising 2% after a brutal sell-off last session, especially in low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet. While coronavirus fears are keeping investors away from risky assets, bankers are curbing trips to Italy after the outbreak over the weekend. Citi, Nomura and Credit Suisse among first to ask staffs to postpone their trips, sources tell us. In corporate news, it's mostly headlines from UK companies. Meggitt shares in focus after the British engineering company warned that Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft production halt and the disruption caused by coronavirus is likely to dent 2020 growth. Tesco sells its 20% stake in a China JV for 275 million pounds, marking the British retailer's exit from the country. Banknote printer De La Rue, which flagged going concern doubts in November, unveiled cost-cutting plans and reaffirmed its profit outlook. Prudential shares are seen rising 3% after activist investor Third Point amassed stake and called the British insurer to split into two companies. British cybersecurity company Avast is seen falling 3% after its U.S. peer Palo Alto Networks forecast lower revenues for 2020. A couple of interesting moves outside the UK: Novartis is seen opening lower after reports of negative side effects from its new eye drug Beovu; Leoni under pressure premarket after full-year revenues miss estimates. Headlines to digest: Judge delays Arkema criminal trial, citing withheld evidence Renault says reserves the right to seek damages depending on Ghosn probe Citi, Credit Suisse among banks curbing Italy trips on coronavirus fears Group of UBI investors says Intesa Sanpaolo's offer undervalues stock (Thyagaraju Adinarayan) ***** TENTATIVE GAINS AFTER YESTERDAY'S ROUT (0652 GMT) European stocks point to a small bounce back after yesterday's rout that wiped roughly half-a-trillion dollars off the pan European STOXX 600 index as the deadly coronavirus spread beyond China. The damage to global stock markets stood at a whopping $1.5 trillion -— one of the biggest one-day market value losses ever. "Losing all 2020's gains in one session was a dramatic way to do it but yesterday's resetting of equity valuations was overdue. They now more accurately reflect the downside threat to corporate earnings from the coronavirus," says Ian Williams, economics & strategy research analyst at Peel Hunt. (Thyagaraju Adinarayan) ***** (Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Joice Alves, Julien Ponthus and Thyagaraju Adinarayan)