By Agamoni Ghosh and Lisa Pauline Mattackal
(Reuters) – European shares fell on Tuesday as investors sifted through a mixed bag of corporate earnings and eyed latest developments on U.S.-China trade talks and Britain’s progress towards some form of orderly departure from the European Union.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index (), which opened slightly positive, was down 0.3% by 0810 GMT, with France’s CAC 40 () lagging the most among major country indices.
British household goods maker Reckitt Benckiser (L:) was the biggest drag on STOXX, slipping to its lowest level in more than one-and-a-half years after it cut full-year sales forecast for the second time this year.
“We’ve had a disappointment from Danone last week and Reckitt-Benckiser today on the consumer side,” said Mark Peden, investment manager, equities at Kames Capital.
“Because of trade issues and manufacturing data, it looks as if expectations had gone a bit too negative for the industrial side and a bit too positive for the consumer side, which is why we’re seeing a bit of a mixed shift in the market.”
Last week, the world’s biggest yoghurt maker Danone (PA:) had cut its 2019 sales growth target, while auto maker Renault (PA:) and truckmaker Volvo (ST:) issued dour profit forecasts amid a broad-based slump in auto sales.
Among other disappointments, French specialty minerals company Imerys (PA:) slipped 10% after cutting its 2019 outlook, while Norway’s Aker BP (OL:) moved 2% lower as it slashed its full-year oil output target.
Switzerland’s SSMI index (), which had earlier bucked the gloomy trend, fell 0.4%, weighed down by Roche (S:) shares on reports that UK’s competition watchdog launched a merger inquiry into a proposed Roche-Spark Therapeutics Inc (O:) deal.
The tech sector () outperformed with Logitech International’s (S:) 2% climb after the Swiss computer keyboard and gaming accessories maker reported a 4.5% increase in operating income for its latest quarter.
Shares of UBS (S:) led gains among banking stocks () after Switzerland’s biggest bank reported a smaller-than-expected loss in quarterly profit.
Shares of Just Eat (L:) jumped 22% to top the STOXX 600 index after Prosus (AX:) announced its bid to buy the food delivery company.
London’s FTSE 100 () and Dublin’s ISEQ () were trading lower along with the pound ahead of a vote in British parliament, which is crucial in determining whether the UK can leave the EU in an orderly way at the end of the month.
Lawmakers will first vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and then on the government’s tight timetable for approving the legislation, but analysts say much of the optimism around Brexit is already priced in and expect subdued reactions.
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