London: European shares fell on Friday, after downbeat US economic data and disappointing results at Citigroup, Bank of America and General Electric heightened concerns over the pace of economic recovery.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares closed 2% lower at 1,012.94 points, ending the week at its lowest level since 7 July.
The FTSEurofirst 300 shed 0.6% this week, as falls in the last two sessions eclipsed gains made earlier in the week, although the index is still up 2% so far this month.
US companies Citigroup, GE and Bank of America reported better than expected quarterly earnings, but revenues fell from a year earlier. The two banks also reported lower investment banking profits.
Adding to concerns for recovery in the world’s largest economy, data showed US consumer prices fell for a third straight month in June while an indicator of consumer sentiment tumbled to an 11-month low in July.
“The central issue is which factors have the stronger effect on equity markets: the positive reports on earnings or the burden due to weaker leading indicators? We think that the negative effects from weaker economic indicators will dominate,” said Tammo Greetfeld, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich.
Banks were among the decliners, with Barclays, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank down 3.1% to 5.2%.
In a closely watched move for the banking sector, European governments have agreed details of the criteria for judging whether their banks have passed the stress tests conducted on the region’s banks, EU sources said. The results are set to be published on 23 July.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, said on Friday he was not expecting “any big catastrophes”.
Across Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 lost 1% to 2.3%.
On the upside, heavyweight oil major BP rose 1.3%, on hopes that it has at last capped the ruptured subsea well that has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for the past three months and can now begin the clean-up.
Among other decliners, Roche fell 4.2 after US Food and Drug Administration briefing documents sparked concern the Swiss drugmaker’s cancer treatment Avastin may be no longer be used to treat breast cancer in the United States.
Finnish utility Fortum’s shed 5.5% as its second-quarter profits lagged forecasts due to a sluggish recovery in industrial power demand. The focus for next week is expected to remain on US corporate earnings, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley due to report on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.