Wednesday 21 March 2018

Increased merger activity saves European stocks dip

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank
Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank

Blaise Robinson

European stocks dipped in early trade today, halting their week-long rally, although the retreat was limited by M&A activity in the health care sector.

Shares of German hospital chain Rhoen-Klinikum jumped 12pc in huge volumes after saying it will sell assets to Fresenius for €3.07bn. The news also boosted Fresenius stock, up 4.5pc.

At 0725 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1pc at 1,246.37 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was down 0.2pc at 2,856.90 points, retreating from a two-year high hit on Thursday.

Investors were reluctant to take any fresh bets ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week, at which the central bank is set to trim stimulus measures despite a lacklustre August jobs report.

The Fed's quantitative easing programme has been a major factor in the global equity rally over the past year, with the FTSEurofirst 300 up 32 percent since June 2012.

"The market has risen quite a lot, so even though we're positive for the medium term, we're looking at booking profits on a number of stocks at these levels," Christian Jimenez, fund manager and president of Diamant Bleu Gestion, in Paris.

"But all in all, the end of the Fed's quantitative easing is good news. It means that the U.S. economy is back on track. There will be collateral damage though, in emerging markets in particular, while Europe should benefit from the flow dynamic."

Adding to speculation about a change of tack at the Fed, Japan's Nikkei newspaper said on Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama will name former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers as chairman of the Federal Reserve early next week.

"Larry Summers is seen as less dovish than Ben Bernanke but no-one really knows what he stands for in terms of monetary policy," Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets, said.

"I think it's that uncertainty more than anything else that is making investors nervous."


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