European shares slip from 16-month highs as oil stocks, banks drop

MILAN (Reuters) - European shares dropped on Monday, retreating from a 16-month high as a reversal among oil stocks and banking sector losses added pressure in a volatile session.

Traders work at their desks in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Staff/Remote

The pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX index was down 0.5 percent at its close, giving up earlier gains and falling from its highest level since December 2015.

Equity markets reversed course after a coalition of U.S. states and municipalities began legal action against President Donald Trump’s administration, accusing it of violating federal law by delaying energy efficiency standards for several consumer and commercial products.

The oil and gas sector index .SXEP, which had risen to a nine-week high earlier in the session, turned negative to end 0.6 percent lower. [O/R]

Within the sector, British mid cap Tullow Oil TLW.L fell 2.6 percent, Italy's Eni ENI.MI was down 1.5 percent and Spain's Repsol REP.MC declined 1.2 percent.

Likewise Europe's basic resources .SXPP index also ended 0.1 percent lower after spending much of the session in positive territory.

Banking stocks .SX7P were the biggest laggards, with the sector dropping 1.4 percent. Banks and commodities-related stocks have enjoyed a rally as investors bet on a reflation trade, based on expectations of increased infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

The trade gathered pace after Trump was elected U.S. President in November, but has been under pressure after his healthcare bill failed last month.

Among European lenders, Banco Popular POP.MC was the biggest faller, plunging more than 10 percent after the Spanish lender said an internal audit identified the need of adjustments to its accounts with most of the adjustments related to doubtful loans.

“Another unhelpful development which does little to restore confidence in the balance sheet,” Jefferies analysts said.

Banco Popular also said that its CEO is to step down. Spain's IBEX .IBEX index ended 1.3 percent lower.

Among the biggest risers, dealmaking helped shares in engineer WS Atkins ATKW.L rocket 26.6 percent after it confirmed that it had received a buyout offer from Canada's SNC-Lavalin.

Outside the STOXX index, London-listed Imagination Tech IMG.L slumped more than 61 percent after Apple AAPL.O said it would stop using its graphics technology in the iPhone and other products.

Traders said the heavy losses in Imagination also weighed on German chipmaker Dialog Semiconductor DLGS.DE, which counts Apple among its biggest customers. Dialog fell 2.3 percent.

Broker Northern Trust says Apple's decision to ditch Imagination is likely a one-off, and any weakness in Dialog and peer AMS AMS.S was a buying opportunity.

Reporting by Kit Rees and Danilo Masoni, editing by Pritha Sarkar