European shares log first weekly loss in eight, marking rough start to year

By Shashwat Chauhan and Ankika Biswas

(Reuters) -European shares logged their first weekly loss in eight on Friday, as investors grappled with a plethora of mixed global economic data, marking a bumpy start to the New Year following 2023’s stellar rally.

The pan-European STOXX 600 ended 0.3% lower, recouping some losses after falling over 1% during the day, for a 0.5% weekly decline.

Retail and chemicals were the top sectoral losers on the day, with the former leading declines for the week.

Helping stem losses for the day, banks added 0.4%, while the media sector rose 0.3%.

Headlining stocks on Friday included French spirits companies Remy Cointreau and Pernod Ricard, down 12.0% and 3.6% respectively, after China announced the launch of an anti-dumping investigation into brandy imported from the European Union.

This steered a 0.4% drop in France’s benchmark CAC-40 index.

Meanwhile, fresh data signalled a higher-than-expected fall in German November retail sales, while euro zone inflation jumped as expected last month, supporting the case for the European Central Bank (ECB) to keep interest rates elevated.

“The higher inflation print just fits into that broader picture of markets having to revise down the number of (interest rate) cuts they expect,” said Kiran Ganesh, global head of investment communications in the UBS Chief Investment Office.

Bets on a pause and a cut in ECB rates in March were almost evenly split – fresh evidence of investors scaling back their expectations of rate cuts as soon as the first quarter of 2024. Policy decisions from both the ECB and U.S. Federal Reserve are due by month-end.

In the United States, December U.S. nonfarm payrolls accelerated more than expected, while a separate reading showed the services sector slowed considerably in December.

“On the one hand, equity market investors in particular will be quite happy that the economy is continuing to perform relatively well and keeping on course for a soft landing, but on the other side, it may mean that the Fed doesn’t cut interest rates as quickly or as much as had been expected,” added UBS’s Ganesh.

Among other decliners, Endeavour Mining lost 6.9% after removing CEO Sebastien de Montessus with immediate effect.

On the flip side, Syensqo gained 4.5% after JP Morgan initiated coverage of the chemicals-focussed company’s stock with an “overweight” rating.

German biotech firm Evotec bounced back 2.6% after Thursday’s 18% slump on the departure of its long-term CEO.

Netherlands-based Redcare Pharmacy rose 7.0% after Berenberg upgraded the stock to “Buy” from “Hold”.

(Reporting by Ankika Biswas and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru Editing by Sohini Goswami and Mark Potter)