European stocks drop as eurozone returns to radar
European stock markets fell on Friday as emerging markets turmoil offsets solid economic growth and upbeat company earnings in the United States.
And after a few days out of the spotlight, investor focus has returned to the eurozone as official data showed unemployment across the bloc stayed close to a record-high rate of 12.0 percent in December.
It comes as Germany’s retailers reported a shock drop in business during the same month, according to volatile data produced by the federal statistics office Destatis.
On the upside, Spanish banking group BBVA announced a 33-percent leap in annual net profits. Shares in French luxury giant LVMH jumped 5.88 percent on record sales last year, pulling up the sector.
In morning deals, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index slipped 0.33 percent to 6,516.79 points and in Frankfurt the DAX 30 shed 0.94 percent to 9,285.51 points.
The CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.38 percent to 4,164.02 points compared with Thursday’s close. Madrid’s IBEX 35 index dropped 0.34 percent to 9,931.
In Amsterdam shares in Altice, the parent of French cable operator Numericable, rose by 2.3 percent to 28.90 euros when they were floated.
But in Paris, shares in nuclear power giant Areva fell by 3.41 percent to 19.8 euros on a fall in fourth-quarter sales.
The euro fell against the dollar, while the price of gold edged higher.
The Turkish lira firmed slightly, to 2.2502 to the dollar from 2.2655 late on Thursday and to 3.0484 to the euro from 3.0715.
“People have been rather preoccupied with emerging markets over the last couple of weeks and everything else seems to have taken a back seat,” Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor, told AFP.
“The U.S. economy continues to go from strength to strength, with many companies beating analyst expectations,” O’Keeffe said. “This is providing a relatively stable backdrop against the current emerging market currency crises and concerns about China.”
O’Keeffe said “the eurozone does have the potential for positive surprises with the outlook in Germany, the UK and Spain as well as some other peripheral countries increasingly favorable.”
She added: “France and Italy remain a worry, but overall Europe appears to be on the right track.”
Official data published on Friday showing that eurozone inflation fell to 0.7 percent in January added to concerns about the bloc’s ability to cement economic recovery.
“The latest eurozone unemployment and inflation data maintain the pressure on the ECB to do more to ward off deflation risks, perhaps as soon as next week,” said Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at consultants Capital Economics.
In foreign exchange trading on Friday, the euro fell to $1.3540 from $1.3554 late in New York on Thursday.
Gold, seen as a haven investment, rose to $1,246.50 an ounce from $1,242.50 an ounce on Thursday on the London Bullion Market.
Emerging market currencies steady
“Even with some of the under pressure emerging market currencies having started to show first signs of stabilizing there is still plenty of uncertainty in the markets where these individuals countries are concerned and their ability to gain back investor?s confidence,” said Markus Huber, analyst at broker Peregrine & Black.
“In order to bring back calm into the markets, investors are also looking for assurances from organizations like the IMF, the World Bank and some of the major central banks that the global recovery won?t be in danger of being derailed by the current turmoil in some emerging market countries.”
Helping to offset such concerns, the US Commerce Department said on Thursday that the world’s number one economy expanded 3.2 percent in October-December, well above the 3.0 percent projected by analysts.
There was some cheer also in reaction to figures showing a 3.3-percent rise in consumer spending, which is a crucial driver of growth in the United States.
The data came one day after the Federal Reserve reduced its stimulus program by another $10 billion a month to $65 billion, following a similar cut in December.
While the US central bank cited a firming US economy for the wind-down, the announcement rattled emerging markets such as India, South Africa and Russia on fears of a capital flight, which in turn has sent their currencies diving this week.