London: European shares drifted lower on Monday, with miners down on weaker Chinese copper import data although asset disposal reports lifted oil major BP.
By 3:58pm, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares was down 0.2% at 1,020.08 points, breaking a four-day winning run.
The index posted its biggest weekly rise in a year last week on hopes that US corporates would be reaping strong profits in their quarterly results.
Some analysts said the likely strong second-quarter earnings may draw little comfort for investors as companies were likely to be wary in their outlook because of belt-tightening to combat high debt and budget deficits in Europe.
“The austerity measures and the slowdown in major markets will probably force companies to be a little bit cautious on their outlook and that will probably have an effect on the market in the short term,” said Mark Bon, a fund manager at Canada Life in London.
Miners came under pressure after data showed a drop in Chinese copper imports for a third month in June, stoking fears of a demand shortfall. However, the country’s overall exports rose 43.9% in June from a year earlier and imports were up 34.1%.
The STOXX Europe 600 basic resources index fell 1.3%, with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Eurasian Natural Resources down 1.2 to 2%.
The basic resources index carried a one-year forward price-to-earnings of 11.42, compared with its 10-year average of 12.44 and 10.1 for the benchmark STOXX Europe 600, according to Thomson Reuters DataStream.
Banks were also softer ahead of stress test results later this month. German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Europe’s banking stress test included a haircut on German sovereign debt under certain conditions in its worst scenario.
The European banking sector slipped 0.5%.
Across Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was flat, Germany’s DAX ticked 0.1% higher and France’s CAC 40 drifted down 0.1%, while the Thomson Reuters Peripheral Eurozone Countries Index dropped 1.3%.
BP shares advanced 6.7% to their highest in nearly a month, boosted by reports of asset disposals to help pay for the oil major’s Gulf of Mexico spill and hopes for a new system to capture almost all the spewing oil.
Other gainers included drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, up 0.7% as fears sparked by regulatory scrutiny of its diabetes pill Avandia subsided.
Aluminium group Alcoa will kick off the US earnings season on Monday. Other major companies to report results this week include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Google.
“We have such a strong run last week and we have got quarterly earnings from the US this week, you don’t want to be buying ahead of those unless you know those figures are pretty good,” a trader said.
“But having seen such a strong run, a lot of that has been priced in.”
UBS said in a note on Friday that its client flows data showed investors had turned net buyers of cyclicals in the past four weeks for the first time since mid-April.
Investors had turned net buyers in the construction sector and the selling in the metals and mining sector had eased off, though telecoms continued to see most net selling, it said.