European markets close lower as geopolitical tensions and weak economic data hurt sentiment


(RTTNews) – European markets closed weak on Friday, extending recent losses, as an escalation in tensions between Russia and Ukraine hurt sentiment.

The growing possibility of Russia invading Ukraine made the mood extremely cautious, and the major markets, despite a period in positive territory, failed to hold onto their gains and ended on a negative note.

The Ukrainian government and Russian state-controlled media continued to trade accusations of ceasefire violations in the east of the country.

News that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have agreed to meet in Europe next week eased concerns over an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, but investors remained reluctant to take significant action.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 0.81%. Britain’s FTSE 100 ended down 0.32%, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.25% and Germany’s DAX fell 1.47%. The Swiss SMI lost 0.54%.

Among other European markets, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Sweden recorded losses significant to moderate.

The Czech Republic and Iceland finished slightly lower. Turkey closed on a strong note, while Greece rose slightly.

In the UK market, Evraz fell more than 7%. Aveva Group fell 6.4%, Ocado Group, Flutter Entertainment and Scottish Mortgage lost 4-4.4% and Dechra Pharmaceuticals ended down 3.2%.

Natwest Group ended sharply lower after warning of an uncertain economic outlook. IAG, Ashtead Group, Croda International, Prudential and BP also fell sharply.

Standard Chartered climbed 3.8%. Antofagasta, Reckitt Benckiser, Burberry Group, Airtel Africa, Unilever, Imperial Brands, B&M European Retail, Kingfisher, Rio Tinto and National Grid lost 1-2.3%.

In the German market, HelloFresh, Zalando and Sartorius lost 4.7 to 5.4%. Allianz ended down nearly 4% after suffering a 3.7 billion euro drop in pre-tax profits.

Infineon Technologies, Porsche Automobil, Continental, SAP, Covestro, Siemens, Volkswagen and Merck ended down 2-3.3%.

In Paris, Hermès International, Faurecia, Michelin, Air France-KLM, STMicroElectronics, Dassault Systèmes and Valeo lost 2 to 4%. Societe Generale, Accor and Technip also fell sharply.

Renault has seen strong buying after making a profit in 2021 and announcing the appointment of Thierry Piéton as chief financial officer with effect from March 1. However, the stock pared its gains as the session progressed and ended flat.

Teleperformance ends up nearly 5%. Pernod Ricard gained around 2% and LO’real climbed 1.2%. Carrefour, Bouygues and Danone posted modest gains.

Swiss chemical company Sika AG ended down 3% after confirming its previous target of 6-8% annual growth through 2023.

Finnish drugmaker Orion soared more than 23% after announcing positive trial results for its prostate cancer treatment.

In economic releases, the euro zone’s current account surplus narrowed to 23 billion euros in December from 24 billion euros the previous month, the European Central Bank said.

Preliminary data from the European Commission showed that euro zone consumer confidence deteriorated further in February, defying expectations of a modest improvement.

The flash consumer confidence index fell to -8.8 from -8.5 in January. Economists expected a score of -8.0. The index fell for the fifth consecutive month and the latest reading was the lowest since March 2021, when it was -10.9.

Eurozone construction output fell for the second month in a row in December, Eurostat reported. Production in the construction sector fell at a faster rate of 4% m/m in December, after falling 0.2% in November.

On an annual basis, construction output fell 3.9%, reversing a 0.4% rise in November, the report said.

UK retail sales volume rose 1.9% month-on-month, contrasting with a revised 4% decline in December, separate data showed.

This was faster than the expected growth of 1%. On an annual basis, overall retail sales rose 9.1%, reversing a 1.7% decline in December.

Inflation in France increased as initially estimated in January due to higher energy and services prices, according to final data from the statistical office Insee.

Consumer prices rose 2.9% on an annual basis in January, after increasing 2.8% the previous month. The rate matched the preliminary estimate released on February 1.

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