Paris: European shares surrendered early gains and turned negative on Thursday morning, losing ground for the seventh session in a row as escalating fears over the beleaguered banking sector hit shares such as HSBC.
Banks were among the biggest losers with Anglo Irish Bank down 16%, BNP Paribas down 6% and HSBC down 4.2%.
Deutsche Postbank fell 20% amid downbeat comments by analysts on revised terms of a deal under which Deutsche Bank is buying a stake in Postbank from Deutsche Post.
At 0935 GMT the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.9% at 797.23 points.
After a brief tick up in the first few sessions of the year, the index is now down 4.6% in 2009, after plummeting 45% last year, hit by the global credit crisis that tipped the world economy into a sharp downturn.
The benchmark index is now up just 6.2% from its multi-year low reached on 21 November.
Investors will closely watch the ECB interest rate decision at 1245 GMT, as well as ECB’s president Jean-Claude Trichet’s news conference.
Overnight on Wall Street Citigroup faced fresh turmoil as investors questioned whether the bank had the capital strength to cope with a global financial crisis, sending its shares down 23%.
Adding to the grim picture, JPMorgan Chase & Co’s chief executive Jamie Dimon said there was no relief in sight for the banking sector.
“The worst of the economic situation is not yet behind us. It looks as if it will continue to deteriorate for most of 2009,” he told the Financial Times. “In terms of our sector, we expect consumer loans and credit cards to continue to get worse.”
The DJ Stoxx banking index was down 2.1% on Thursday. It tumbled 65% in 2008, hit by the financial crisis that began with US mortgage defaults in 2007 and has now plunged major economies into recession, reshaped the banking landscape and taken entire countries to the brink of bankruptcy.
Around Europe, UK’s FTSE 100 index was down 0.9%, Germany’s DAX index down 1.1%, and France’s CAC 40 down 1.1%.
Shares in oil producers also slipped, as oil dropped to $36.82 a barrel. BP shed 0.8% and Royal Dutch Shell fell 0.4%.
Continental fell 19% on news that the automotive parts and tyre maker was considering a 1 billion euro ($1.31 billion) capital increase.
Among the very few stocks on the upside, mid-cap HMV Group rose 5% after the music and books retailer late on Wednesday reported a 0.5% rise in underlying sales for the five weeks to 3 January and agreed to buy 14 stores from the administrators of stricken rival Zavvi.