London: European shares closed lower on Friday, snapping two consecutive days of gains ahead of the weekend, with BP down over uncertainty as to whether it has managed to plug its Gulf oil well and other energy stocks tracking a fall in crude prices.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares closed down 0.3% at 997.70 points but recorded a gain of 2.9% for the week as bargain hunters snapped up shares after prices fell to their lowest levels in about 10 months.
“It looked quite bullish earlier but investors are taking risk off the table going into the weekend and also holidays in the US and the UK on Monday,” said Matthew Brown, sales trader at ETX Capital. “They are not keen to hold equities.”
Investor sentiment also remained fragile as US data showed consumer spending was unexpectedly flat last month and growth in business activity in the US Midwest slowed.
Energy stocks were under pressure as crude prices fell back after the US economic data. Total and Statoil slipped 0.5% and 0.8%, respectively.
Banks, which have been hit hard by concerns over Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, retreated from earlier session gains. Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and BNP Paribas slipped 0.8% to 2.7%.
Drug makers featured among the top risers, with GlaxoSmithKline up 1.8%. The company will help commercialise Amgen’s keenly awaited new drug Prolia, or denosumab, which has been approved in Europe as a treatment for the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.
Novartis, Roche and AstraZeneca rose 1% to 1.5%.
Unilever gained 1.6% after UBS raised its rating for the household products firm to “buy” from “neutral”, with an unchanged 2,025 pence price target, pointing out that the stock has significantly de-rated over the last six months.
Marks & Spencer was up 2.6%, after UBS lifted its rating on the retailer to “buy” from “neutral” following its recent full-year results, saying the firm is on a “solid footing”.
Across Europe, the FTSE 100 index was down 0.1%, Germany’s DAX was up 0.2% and France’s CAC 40 falls 0.3%.