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Stocks - Europe Opens Down Again on Diageo, Danone Virus Warnings

By Geoffrey Smith -- Europe’s stock markets opened lower again on Wednesday, as corporate warnings of hits from the coronavirus outbreak added to growing signs of it spreading within Europe and further afield.

Markets followed the lead of both Wall Street on Tuesday and Asian stocks overnight, both of which posted further losses after the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the virus was likely to reach communities in the U.S.

That warning contradicted claims by White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who told CNBC that “We have contained this, I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight.”

News of a big fiscal stimulus package from Hong Kong and further supportive measures from China weren’t enough to turn Asian markets around, as the number of confirmed cases in South Korea rose to 1,146.

By 3:05 AM ET (0805 GMT), the benchmark Stoxx 600 was down 0.3% at 401.38, while the German Dax was down 1.0%, the U.K. FTSE 100 was down 0.4% and the Italian FTSE MIB down 0.1%.

In early news, French dairy giant Danone SA (PA:DANO) warned that the outbreak would stop it reaching its sales target for this year. It now expects sales to grow by between 2% and 4%, rather than the 4%-5% range it expected previously.

Beer and spirits group Diageo (LON:DGE) fell 1.4% after warning that the outbreak would shave some $420 million off this year’s sales, while Belgian chemicals group Solvay (BR:SOLB) also fell after a similar warning.

There was better news from French auto group Peugeot SA (PA:PEUP), which said net profit rose 13% last year, more than expected, while operating margins hit a record 8.5%.

In London, miner Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) rose 0.7% after reporting a surge in profit last year due to high iron ore prices, but it warned of high uncertainty for the current year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

London Stock Exchange Group (LON:LSE), meanwhile, fell 1.9% to a three-week low on a report in the Financial Times saying that its takeover of Refinitiv was facing delays due to EU antitrust concerns.

The euro, however, held up against the dollar, falling less than 0.1% to $1.0875, while Sterling also edged lower to $1.2992. Emerging market currencies across Europe continued to weaken, with the Russian ruble falling to a new five-month low against the dollar and the Turkish lira falling to its lowest since May last year.

Elsewhere, the yield on the German 10-Year Bund fell below -0.5% for the first time since September but gold futures pulled back slightly, dropping 0.2% to $1,647.85 an ounce.

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