European shares fall amid tensions between US and Russia

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European shares fell on Monday as geopolitics kept investors on the sidelines as they weighed a warning from US president Donald Trump to Russia of imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell by 0.6 per cent to 376.18 points.

The Iseq overall index declined by 0.9 per cent to 6,579.27 points, with market heavyweights Ryanair, Kerry Group and CRH among the main decliners.

Ryanair lost 3.4 per cent to €15.83, after air traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines to exercise caution in the eastern Mediterranean due to possible air strikes into Syria and as global turmoil sent oil prices higher.

Kerry Group lost 1.8 per cent to €82.85, while CRH declined by 1.2 per cent to €27.15.

Bucking the trend, Cairn added 1.6 per cent to €1.75, helped by a positive analysts note from Goodbody Stockbrokers, which noted that the housebuilder will become a “strong cash generative story” from 2020.

Dublin-based Greencore’s shares added 1.2 per cent in London as one of its key customers, Tesco, highlighted as it unveiled strong full-year earnings that its own-brand ready meals have been a key driver of growth.

The FTSE 100 lost 0.13 per cent, though it remained near the six-week high it reached on Tuesday after several days of gains.

Travel and tourism-related stocks were out of sorts, with easyJet falling 1.8 per cent, while cruise operator Carnival dropped 2.1 per cent and Intercontinental Hotel fell 1.6 per cent.

Immune from geopolitical worries, Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco topped the FTSE 100, jumping 7.2 per cent to a two-year high after it beat its profit forecast.

“There’s less of a threat from Lidl and Aldi and people are gravitating back to things like Tesco,” said Paul Mumford, fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management, referring to German discount retailers.

Among smaller companies, shares in online fashion retailer Asos ended the day down 2.4 per cent and hit a more than three-month low, after results disappointed investors.

The Cac 40 in France declined by 0.7 per cent and the Dax in Germany fell by as much as 0.8 per cent.

Deutsche Telekom rose 2.2 per cent after reports that Sprint had restarted talks to merge with the German group’s US unit T-Mobile US.

“(This is a) clearly positive trigger for battered Deutsche Telekom shares. A chance to strike a deal revives the fantasy for huge synergies,” a Frankfurt-based trader said.

However Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut slumped 8.4 per cent and giving up early gains after saying that it expected growth to slow after a robust first half.

A Facebook-led rebound in technology stocks in early afternoon on Wednesday helped Wall Street pare losses that were sparked by concerns about a US-Russia conflict over Syria.

Facebook’s shares were up 1.1 per cent. They were down about 0.5 per cent when chief executive Mark Zuckerberg started his second day of testimony, but they flipped course as he pushed back on US Congress members’ suggestions that users do not have enough control of their data.

“It looks like investors are thinking he’s doing a good job in front of a hard-to-please crowd,” said Kim Forrest, senior portfolio manager at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

“He’s trying to make sure that his view of the company which is, that they are good stewards of data, gets heard and it’s unclear if they are going to go unscathed with no regulation.”

The S&P 500 fell 0.24 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite was flat, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.6 percent, at 24,268.13.

Netflix gained after Goldman Sachs became the latest brokerage to predict the streaming company would top expectations when it reports results on Monday.

Industrial distributor Fastenal fell after its earnings missed expectations.

– Additional reporting, Reuters.

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