December 22, 2017 / 8:38 AM / a year ago

Spanish stocks, financials tumble on Catalan separatist gains

LONDON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Spanish stocks fell after Catalan separatists won a slim majority in a regional election, deepening a political crisis which has hurt the economy and caused a business exodus from the region.

Spain’s IBEX fell 1.1 percent after voters backed separatist parties in a rebuke to Prime Minister Manuel Rajoy and European Union leaders.

Banco Sabadell and Caixabank, which have the biggest exposure to Catalonia and moved headquarters after October’s independence referendum, sank 2.7 to 3.4 percent, the top fallers.

Santander, Bankia, and BBVA also sank in early dealing.

Stocks across sectors exposed to the domestic economy tumbled. Infrastructure firm Ferrovial, real estate investment trust Merlin Properties and insurer Mapfre fell 1.6 to 2 percent.

As political risk reared its head again, financial stocks were the biggest drag on European markets. The euro zone banks index fell 0.8 percent.

Spanish stocks dominated fallers on the euro zone STOXX index, which dipped just 0.2 percent, confirming analyst expectations that any shake-out from the Catalonia vote would be mostly confined to Spain.

Germany’s DAX edged down 0.1 percent, in line with France’s CAC 40.

Spanish stocks were Europe’s best-performing benchmark for much of the year, before October’s independence referendum sent the IBEX tumbling. It was last 9 percent down from its May peak.

Among the rare risers on Friday, Eutelsat jumped 4.8 percent after Kepler Cheuvreux raised its rating on the stock to ‘buy’ from ‘hold’.

German-listed shares in South African retailer Steinhoff gained 5.3 percent after the company, mired in an accounting scandal, said a court decision on whether to allow an investigation into its accounts is expected by Jan. 22. (Reporting by Helen Reid)

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