July 11, 2017 / 7:33 AM / in 8 months

Defensives drag European shares lower, Pearson drops after stake sale

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares ended Tuesday on the backfoot as losses among defensive consumer staples and real estate stocks outweighed strength in autos and miners.

Traders work in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Staff/Remote

The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.7 percent at its close, while euro zone stocks .STOXXE and blue-chips .STOXX50E fell 0.4 percent, in muted trading punctuated by early earnings updates and more corporate deal-making.

Consumer staples including food and drink companies .SX3P and household goods .SXQP weighed, with real estate stocks .SX86P also falling 1.2 percent.

Auto stocks .SXPP were a bright spot, up 1 percent, after data showed Chinese passenger car sales rose.

“We note that defensive equity sectors earnings have generally weakened while cyclical sectors keep their positive momentum,” said Valentin Bissat, equity analyst at Mirabaud Asset Management.

“Overall for the region, the equity risk premium has decreased, which in turn increases companies’ buybacks, a trend which is likely to continue in the short term as reduced uncertainties and a cyclical recovery decrease the necessity to hold liquidity in cash,” Bissat added.

Basic resources .SXPP was the only other sector in positive territory, up 0.5 percent as metals prices gained.

Pearson (PSON.L) wiped out early gains to fall to the bottom of the STOXX, down more than 5 percent after selling a 22 percent stake in publisher Penguin Random House. Analysts were concerned about what this would mean for future dividends.

Analysts at Liberum, which has a “sell” rating on the restructuring education publisher, were skeptical about the details of the deal.

Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) reported a rise in full-price sales, but its shares fell 4.7 percent, partly on the back of underwhelming food sales.

Broker notes spurred some of the biggest individual moves, with semiconductor maker AMS (AMS.S) a top gainer after Credit Suisse upped its target price.

Peer STMicro (STM.MI) - a supplier to tech giant Apple - received a boost after JP Morgan raised it to “overweight”, though it ended the session 0.4 percent lower.

    “We believe that the market is too cautious on STMicro,” wrote European tech analyst Sandeep Deshpande.

    Deshpande also said Apple suppliers would have a strong second half, calling the market too skeptical and predicting the semiconductor stocks would meet or beat expectations.

    In the incipient European earnings season, a strong update from Danish insurer Tryg (TRYG.CO) pushed it up 3.6 percent to a two-year high. Berenberg analyst Iain Pearce said a special dividend could be expected at year-end.

    Randstad (RAND.AS) and Adecco (ADEN.S) both fell more than 2 percent, targeted by Deutsche Bank in a note on staffing firms.

    Analysts at Deutsche cut ratings for the world’s two largest staffing companies, saying current employment levels in the United States and Europe were associated with peaking 12-month investor returns.

    British recruitment firm Hays (HAYS.L) followed its European peers down 1.6 percent.

    Reporting by Helen Reid and Kit Rees; editing by Mark Heinrich

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