European shares fall after China factory contraction sparks growth worry
European shares fell to a seven-month low on Friday, tracking a drop in Asian equity markets after a survey showed Chinese factory activity contracted at its fastest pace since 2009.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was down 1.6 percent at 1,453.62 by 0703 GMT, with every sector in negative territory. The index hit its lowest level since January and was set for its biggest weekly fall of the year.
The Caixin/Markit manufacturing index showed activity in China's factory sector shrank at its fastest pace in almost 6-1/2 years in August as domestic and export demand dwindled. Coming on the heels of weaker-than-expected data in July, it stoked fears of a slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy.
U.S. stock futures fell to a 6 month low after the survey, while Japan's Nikkei stock index fell 3 percent, while copper and oil prices were both set for steep weekly losses, pegging back commodity related shares.
The FTSEurofirst 300 recovered from its lows hit in early trade, however, with some saying that markets had overreacted to the negative consequences of lower commodity prices.
"Admittedly, the picture in Asia has deteriorated and investors are waiting for the Chinese government to give guidance," said Heinz Rüttimann, strategist at Julius Baer.
"(However) six months ago market sentiment was very positive as net energy-importing countries celebrated lower oil prices.... Today the overall commodity complex is even lower but this time it has taken market sentiment along with it."
The Greek stock market edged 0.2 percent lower, though banks rose 1.5 percent after an early fall.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned on Thursday, hoping to strengthen his hold on power in snap elections after seven months in office in which he fought Greece's creditors for a better bailout deal but had to cave in.
"Regarding Greece, we are not that concerned at the moment, as Syriza is still by far the most popular party. It indicates that Syriza could get enough votes to get an absolute majority," said Antoine Deix, European equity and derivatives strategist at BNP Paribas.
Data painted a mixed picture of the economic resilience of the rest of the euro zone.
Morale among German consumers declined going into September for the first time in six months and French private-sector activity weakened for the second month in a row in August.
However, the FTSEurofirst 300 was supported of its lows after data showed an unexpected acceleration in Euro zone business growth this month, while German manufacturers grew more strongly than expected.