Growth angst and oil slide take European shares to two-week low

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares hit their lowest in two weeks on Wednesday as data showing the German and Japanese economies contracting in the third quarter fueled worries about global growth amid a plunge in oil prices.

The pan-European STOXX 600 lost 0.5 percent by 0900 GMT as commodities sectors weighed and Italian stocks sold off.

The STOXX and leading euro zone stock indexes .STOX50E hit their lowest since Oct 31 in early deals, recovering some ground later.

Italy’s decision to stick to its growth and deficit plans in its re-submitted draft budget set the stage for a showdown with the European Union over breaking structural deficit limits.

It drove government bond yields up and sent Italy’s FTSE MIB .FTMIB down 1.8 percent, set for its worst fall in a month, as bank stocks .FTIT8300 fell 1.5 percent.

The oil and gas sector .SXEP sank 2.3 percent, causing it to cede its position as top-gaining sector year-to-date to healthcare.

Energy stocks have been one of the biggest contributors to the region’s earnings growth this quarter, making the slide a significant concern for investors.

Crude prices were struggling to find a footing after a 7 percent plunge the previous day on surging supply.

In London, the FTSE 100 .FTSE fell as Prime Minister Theresa May sought to convince her government to accept a draft European Union divorce deal that opponents say threatens the independence and unity of the United Kingdom.

Mining stocks .SXPP fell 2.7 percent as copper prices slid after weak China retail sales data reignited fears of a slowdown in the world’s biggest metals consumer.

Dutch payments firm Adyen’s (ADYEN.AS) shares lost 9.5 percent as traders said the stock had been left out of an MSCI index re-weighting, and was also being dragged down by Wirecard (WDIG.DE) which fell after results.

“Adyen didn’t get included into the MSCI re-weights, which a lot of people were thinking they might, so there’s some technical selling driving it,” said Mark Taylor, sales trader at the Mirabaud Securities Global Thematic Group.

Wirecard shares fell after the firm hiked its profit target and reported a jump in third-quarter net earnings. Traders said the market was honing in on details in its free cash flow, and signs of slowing inorganic growth.

Iliad (ILD.PA) shares were among top gainers, up 7.1 percent after results showed good performance in the company’s Italian unit, though overall it lost subscribers.

Overall European earnings have been underwhelming this season, revealing growing margin pressure and concerns about growth and a slowdown in China.

“For 2019, we forecast low-single-digit and below-consensus EPS growth in Europe,” wrote Barclays analysts.

They see earnings per share growing at 4 percent in the euro zone and 2 percent in the UK next year – significantly lower than the aggregate IBES Refinitiv estimates for around 10 and 8 percent respectively.

Mediaset (MS.MI) shares fell 7.6 percent, the heaviest fallers on the Italian index, after third-quarter earnings delivered a small beat, but Deutsche Bank analysts said consensus estimates were more likely to fall than rise.

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