By Julien Ponthus
LONDON, Feb 28 : European shares opened lower on Wednesday as a batch of corporate results failed to change the negative trend set on Wall Street overnight on signs that U.S. interest rates could rise faster than expected.
At 0900 GMT, the pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.3 percent with most bourses and sectors falling.
Overnight, U.S. stocks suffered their biggest daily drops since a selloff three weeks ago, after comments from new Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell changed investors’ perceptions of the pace of U.S. “monetary normalisation”.
“This was a clear shot across the bows from the new Chair, suggesting that ? if it is up to him ? the FOMC may want to revise its current projections of three hikes for this year up to include a fourth,” Rabobank commented.
For many analysts, the early February correction that shares around the globe had its roots in the fact that after years of ultra-loose monetary policy, bond yields are catching up to a new economic environment.
That lowers the equity risk premium – the price paid to compensate the risk of investing in stocks rather than in bonds.
Results from European corporates on Wednesday failed to lift investors’ spirits.
France’s Biomerieux was the biggest faller after publishing disappointing annual results, dropping about 9 percent.
In the same sector, German drugmaker Bayer’s lost 3.3 percent as earnings were dragged lower by discounts to crop protection distributors in Brazil. It also said it needed more time to wrap up the planned takeover of U.S. seeds giant Monsanto.
Belgium’ Solvay also lost some ground, down 2.2 percent as it forecast lower growth in 2018, with a fall in profitability at its traditional chemicals business.
Better news came from Dutch-Belgian supermarket operator Ahold Delhaize which expects to save roughly 200 million euros from U.S. tax cuts this year. Its shares rose 2.1 percent.
In the banking sector, EFG International fell 8.7 percent after reporting a worse-than-expected full year net loss as it absorbed integration costs from its takeover of rival Swiss private bank BSI.
Austrian lender Erste Group got a better market response to its earnings and jumped 3.6 percent. Its net profits were buoyed by a rise in interest rates in eastern Europe and steady growth in banking fees and lending income.
In the UK, ITV lost 7.5 percent. The British broadcaster reported a 5 percent drop in adjusted full-year earnings, reflecting a tough advertising environment.
Dialog Semiconductor led gainers with a 7.9 percent rise after it published its results.