April 18, 2019 / 7:49 AM / 3 months ago

European shares cautious ahead of PMI data

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April 18 (Reuters) - European shares ticked lower in early deals on Thursday, as investors cautiously awaited manufacturing data to gauge the health of euro zone economies ahead of the Easter holiday.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index edged down 0.1 percent by 0725 GMT, with all countries’ bourses in the red.

Better-than-expected economic data out of China on Wednesday propelled the pan-region index to a sixth day of gains. The STOXX 600 index hit an eight-month high this week and it has shrugged off a weak opening in recent sessions to close higher.

European markets will remain closed on Friday and Monday for the Easter holiday.

Purchasing Managers’ Indexes (PMIs) for the manufacturing and service sectors in Europe are due at 0800 GMT.

This comes on the heels of the German government lowering its forecast for 2019 economic growth for the second time in three months, reflecting a worsening slowdown driven by a recession in manufacturing.

Also due later in the day are retail sales data and flash PMIs from the United States.

Auto stocks lost ground after a strong surge in the previous session, while healthcare stocks tumbled following an overnight selloff at its U.S. peers on regulatory concerns.

Shares in Osram was among the biggest percentage losers on STOXX 600 after a German magazine reported that private equity groups Bain Capital and Carlyle Group were losing confidence in their bid for the lighting group.

Kering dropped 5.8 percent and weighed heavily on France’s CAC 40 and retail stocks, even as the luxury goods conglomerate beat first-quarter revenue forecasts on strong demand for Gucci’s flamboyant designs and handbags.

Some traders pointed to an element of profit taking and a slower pace of growth at Gucci for the weakness in shares.

However, not all earnings were disappointing. The food and beverage sector gained the most among European sectors, lifted by upbeat earnings Nestle.

The food group’s shares advanced after the company maintained its full-year forecast after good momentum in the United States and China.

Shares of lab equipment maker Sartorius Stedim Biotech was the top performer on STOXX 600 after it maintained full-year guidance as first-quarter revenue rose.

London shares of consumer goods giant Unilever gained 2 percent after it reported stronger than expected quarterly underlying sales growth, helped by increased prices and volume.

Schneider Electric rose after the French company beat first-quarter revenue estimates.

French vouchers and card provider Edenred rose 1.8 percent after keeping its outlook for 2019 unchanged. Rival Sodexo gained 0.7 percent.

On the trade front, Washington and Beijing set a tentative timeline for a fresh round of face-to-face meetings ahead of a possible signing ceremony in late May or early June, according to a Wall Street Journal report. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru Editing by Gareth Jones)

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