April 3, 2018 / 7:39 AM / 21 days ago

Tech, trade fears weighed on European shares

LONDON (Reuters) - European stocks retreated on Tuesday as investors began the second quarter in a fragile mood amid international trade tensions and mounting pressure on big technology companies.

The pan-European STOXX 600 ended the day down 0.5 percent after falling more than 1 percent earlier in the session. The index was supported in afternoon trading by a slight rebound on Wall Street.

Germany's DAX .GDAXI was a clear underperformer, losing about 0.8 percent while industrials, financials and healthcare stocks weighed on European indexes.

The tech sector .SX8P dropped 0.8 percent, after an overnight report that Apple plans to replace Intel chips in Macs with its own.

The index has fallen about 7.5 percent in the past three weeks as anxiety grew over big tech companies with the focus on Facebook’s use of data, and regulation of Amazon.

Reports of Apple increasingly going down the “insourcing” route have dented shares in Apple suppliers around the world, most notably Europe’s Dialog Semiconductor (DLGS.DE), down 3.5 percent.

STMicro (STM.MI) shed 2.9 percent, while ams declined 2.3 percent and Infineon (IFXGn.DE) fell 2.1 percent.

Risk appetite was poor across the board, as European investors followed U.S. and Asian investors to the exit after China retaliated against U.S. tariffs.

“We believe that risk-reward for stocks has not turned medium-term negative, and would be adding at these levels,” wrote JP Morgan strategists in a note.

Equities have again entered “oversold” territory, they said, adding, however, that headwinds for technology stocks were increasing.

Outside the tech sector, food services group Sodexo (EXHO.PA) 4.5 percent after Goldman Sachs (GS) cut the stock to “neutral”. Sodexo had already suffered a 15.7 percent decline after warning on profit in the previous session.

The DAX (German stock index) logo is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

“We now see the pick-up of competitive pressures is unlikely to go away in the short term, while company profit continues to suffer from intensifying labor inflation in the region,” GS analysts wrote.

Air France (AIRF.PA) shares fell 4.4 percent. The carrier’s unions called a strike for wage increases amid a wider labor stoppage across France paralyzing rail services.

Acquisition news also continued to move the European market.

Eurofins Scientific (EUFI.PA) shares fell 2.1 percent, the worst performers on the STOXX, after the firm acquired Lab Frontier in South Korea.

Italy’s largest private broadcaster Mediaset (MS.MI) rose 6.4 percent, after signing a content-sharing deal with Sky’s (SKYB.L) Italian unit and paving the way for a broader alliance.

Liberum analysts called the deal a “win-win”.

“This agreement should be a TV advertising revenue booster as it creates larger audiences,” they wrote.

Berenberg upgraded Mediaset to a “buy”, saying the deal marked a “step change in profitability”.

Also in Italy, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI) jumped 7.3 percent after reporting strong U.S. sales.

    (For a graphic on 'Tech still leading European sectors' click reut.rs/2GONkt9)

    Reporting by Helen Reid and Julien Ponthus; Editing by Kit Rees and Mark Potter

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