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European shares inch lower before U.S. healthcare vote
March 24, 2017 / 10:24 AM / 8 months ago

European shares inch lower before U.S. healthcare vote

* STOXX down 0.3 pct, set for 0.6 percent weekly loss

* Insurers lead fallers, chemicals supported by Syngenta

* Credit Suisse up as unit IPO preparations continue

* UK engineer Smiths up after results, but Bollore down (Adds details, updates prices)

By Danilo Masoni

MILAN, March 24 (Reuters) - European shares fell slightly on Friday with eyes still on a vote on U.S. President Donald Trump’s healthcare bill which has been delayed to later in the day.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.3 percent, set for a weekly fall of around 0.6 percent, while the UK‘S FTSE and Germany’s DAX both fell 0.1 percent.

Traders said markets could react negatively if the bill is rejected, although worries had somewhat eased.

“An eventual failure could let down investors,” said LCG analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya. “Yet it is worth noting that the major market focus is still on the fiscal plans and the Trump administration could carry on with its expansive fiscal plans regardless of a disappointment on the healthcare bill.”

As caution ahead of the vote prevailed, data on Friday showing that euro zone businesses grew at their fastest pace in nearly six years in the first quarter had little impact on European shares.

The insurance index fell 0.8 percent, the heaviest fall by sector, weighed down by a 3.8 percent drop in Dutch insurer Aegon. Meanwhile the chemical index gained 0.4 percent, underpinned by Syngenta which rose after Reuters reported that EU antitrust regulators were set to clear ChemChina’s $43 billion bid for the Swiss company next week.

Credit Suisse rose 0.6 percent after Switzerland’s second-biggest bank released its annual report and shareholder meeting agenda, which contained no indication of plans to carry out a share sale that could raise 3 billion Swiss francs.

Sources close to the matter said that Credit Suisse was considering a quickfire share sale rather than pursuing a separate listing for its Swiss banking unit, but on Friday the bank said preparations for the IPO were continuing.

Smiths Group was among the biggest STOXX gainers, up 3.2 percent, after the British engineer stuck to its full-year outlook as growth in its detection unit helped boost first-half profit.

Credit Suisse described the results as very strong and said it continued “to favour Smiths’ investment story driven by portfolio rationalisation and investment in growth.”

A top faller was France’s Bollore, down 4.4 percent, after the holding company of financier Vincent Bollore swung to an annual net loss and said it would buy out electrical components maker Blue Solutions. (Reporting by Danilo Masoni; editing by Richard Lough)

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