European shares snap four-day rally on Unilever warning, hard Brexit fears

(Reuters) - European shares bucked a four day winning streak on Tuesday, weighed by Unilever after a sales warning, while fears that Britain will take a hard line on the Brexit transition kept investors on edge.

The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, December 17, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

The pan-European stocks index .STOXX pulled back from record highs hit in the previous session, falling 0.7%.

Europe's personal and household goods sector .SXQP tumbled 2.6%, the most among regional subsectors, while also logging its worst day since early October.

Weighing on the sector was consumer goods giant Unilever ULVR.LUNA.AS, which slid 6.4% after it warned that 2019 sales would grow less than it had expected, citing tough trading conditions in West Africa and a slowdown in south Asia.

Domestically focused UK stocks .FTMC also slipped from all-time highs after reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would use his control of parliament to rule out any extension of the Brexit transition beyond 2020.

British banks Royal Bank of Scotland RBS.L, Barclays BARC.L and Lloyds Banking Group LLOY.L dropped.

“Given the short amount of time that Johnson has to agree a deal, investors are probably worried that a no-deal Brexit is not off the table,” said Simona Gambarini, markets economist at Capital Economics in London.

London's blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE index held steady, aided by a weaker pound. Data showed British employers unexpectedly took on more staff in the three months before the country's Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, suggesting the labour market was retaining some of its strength. [GBP/]

Global equity markets have had a record run recently, encouraged by a phase one trade deal between the United States and China and by Johnson’s election victory last week, which raised hopes of an orderly British exit from the European Union.

However, a lack of clarity over the details of the U.S.-China trade deal dampened initial optimism.

“Phase one of the trade deal has been cut but all the details aren’t very clear,” ING analysts said in a note, citing contradictory stances held by officials from both sides over future tariff reductions.

Airbus AIR.PA rose 1.8% after Boeing BA.N said it would suspend production of its 737 MAX jetliner in January. Shares in aircraft-parts maker Safran SAF.PA fell about 1.5%.

NMC Health Plc NMC.L tumbled 32.4% to the bottom of the STOXX 600, after U.S. short-seller Muddy Waters acquired a short position in the healthcare provider.

Austrian speciality steelmaker Voestalpine VOES.VI fell 2% after it cut its full-year profit forecast and said it planned to lower its dividend payment.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru and Sruthi Shankar in London, editing by Gareth Jones, Larry King and Giles Elgood