European shares pause for breath; Carillion rivals gain

The German share price index, DAX board, is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, January 11, 2018. REUTERS/Staff/Remote

LONDON (Reuters) - European stocks got off to a sluggish start on Monday following two weeks of gains, with cyclical stocks among the biggest decliners, while M&A remained in focus.

Shares in some competitors of Carillion CLLN.L rose after the long-struggling construction and support services company collapsed, with banks refusing to lend it any more money.

“People will pick up business and for some it will be good. JV arrangements will also get triggered where they take on the majority share of the contracts,” said a sector analyst at a UK broker, citing Serco in healthcare.

Among Carillion competitors, Serco jumped 3.4 percent and Interserve 1.9 percent, Balfour Beatty BALF.L 0.2 percent and Kier Group KIE.L 0.3 percent.

While the STOXX has seen a strong start to 2018 and has held at its highest levels since August 2015, weakness among banking stocks and energy kept the index in negative territory, while a stronger euro also added pressure.

The pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX index was down 0.1 percent in early deals, while Euro zone blue chips .STOXX50E also declined 0.1 percent. So-called cyclical stocks, whose profits are most sensitive to the strength of the economy, have been the best equity sector performers this year.

Finnish mining equipment maker Metso METSO.HE was the biggest faller on the STOXX, dropping 9.5 percent after its fourth-quarter earnings missed expectations.

Meanwhile GKN GKN.L saw its shares rise 2.2 percent after suitor Melrose MRON.L said it planned to meet shareholders of the British automotive and aerospace equipment maker following a rejected takeover offer.

Reporting by Kit Rees; editing by Tom Pfeiffer