European shares weaker in choppy trade

IOL pic dado euro currency notes 100 200 500 REUTERS File picture: Dado Ruvic

Milan - European shares fell slightly in choppy trade on Thursday with losses limited by gains in oil stocks, while disappointing results from Roche weighed on the healthcare sector.

Investors were in a wait-and-see mode after the US Federal Reserve kept rates unchanged on Wednesday saying it was “closely monitoring” global economic and financial developments, signalling it wasn't ready to abandon a plan to tighten monetary policy this year.

“The Fed was very pragmatic by showing it is ready to evaluate the impact of markets and delaying any decision to March,” said Marco Vailati, head of research at Cassa Lombarda.

By 09h38 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was 0.3 percent lower while the euro zone's blue chip Eurostoxx 50 index also dipped.

Shares have witnessed a turbulent start of the year on concerns over China's slowing economy and tumbling oil prices, with the FTSEurofirst 300 down 7 percent since the end of 2015.

Energy stocks were up 1.3 percent, making them the top sectoral gainer, as crude prices steadied above $33 per barrel, supported by the possibility that major producers may cooperate to cut production. Shares in oil companies such as Repsol, Statoil and Royal Dutch Shell were all up by between 2 and 5 percent.

However, Roche dropped 3 percent after 2015 net profit from Swiss cancer drug maker fell short of expectations in 2015 and the company's forecast of an improvement this year met a sceptical market response. Its dividend also disappointed.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said Roche had been weighed down by its diagnostics business, high tax and foreign exchange effects. It however reiterated its buy rating on the stock saying underlying results were of good quality.

Hennes & Mauritz fell 3.8 percent after the fashion firm warned that price reductions to help shift large stocks of winter wear after unusually warm weather and a strong dollar would weigh on its first quarter.

Among the gainers, Electrolux added 3.5 percent, despite reporting a fourth quarter loss, with traders citing a better than expected underlying performance.


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