Carrefour plunge rattles retail stocks as Europe extends gains

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares rose for a second day on Thursday following heavy losses on jitters over North Korea but posted a third straight month of decline, while a profit warning from Carrefour sank the retail sector.

Traders work in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Staff/Remote

The pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX ended up 0.8 percent, boosted by strong gains for miners and construction stocks, while the retail sector dropped 1.3 percent.

Also buoying the market was a Reuters report that rapid gains in the euro, which helped drag the STOXX to a six-month low this week, were worrying a growing number of ECB policymakers, raising the chance asset purchases will be phased out only slowly.

Carrefour CARR.PA shares fell 13 percent, their biggest daily drop in 20 years, after the French supermarket chain warned 2017 profit could decline by 12 percent and cut its sales growth target.

It reported weaker-than-expected first-half earnings as intense retail competition weighed on margins.

“Although Carrefour’s weak first-half results are partly related to some external or non-recurring factors (integration of Eroski stores in Spain, change in credit regulation in Brazil), they also illustrate the group’s structural challenges,” Barclays analysts wrote.

French peer Casino CASP.PA fell 2.8 percent as investors saw similar pressures hitting it. Analysts at Jefferies said Carrefour's results had forced a re-evaluation of their investment thesis.

The retail index .SXRP has been one of the worst-performing in Europe this year as competition and structural pressures mount.

“It’s been a tough time for the sector, with the more macro theme that Amazon is slowly eating everyone’s lunch, though that’s not the case in Europe to the same extent as the U.S.,” said Paul Harper, equity strategist at DNB Bank.

“Another problem is that the retail sector is relatively highly priced, so there’s not really much room for disappointment,” he added.

Pernod Ricard PERP.PA shares slipped 1.9 percent after the world's second-biggest spirits group said currency exchange would be a bigger weight on earnings than previously expected.[nL8N1LH288]

Miners Antofagasta ANTO.L, Anglo American AAL.L and Glencore GLEN.L rose sharply, helping to lift the index as copper prices gained on stronger Chinese demand.

Chipmakers AMS AMS.S and Dialog Semiconductor DLGS.DE rose 5.1 and 4.3 percent respectively as the suppliers to smartphone maker Apple AAPL.O benefited from increased investor enthusiasm ahead of the next iPhone release, a trader said.

Though banking stocks .SX7P helped stoke gains on Thursday, they suffered their worst monthly losses since June last year when Britain's vote to exit the EU roiled markets.

The STOXX 600 ended in the red for a third month.

While a global consensus has formed this year around stronger prospects for European equities, the region’s main benchmarks have slipped in the summer as company earnings were measured up against lofty expectations and a surging euro reined stocks back.

“You can explain a significant chunk of the dip by the currency,” DNB Bank’s Harper said.

“Consensus earnings for the MSCI Europe peaked in mid-May and estimates started lowering in the second quarter as analysts had to mark to market their currency assumptions.”

Reporting by Helen Reid and Danilo Masoni; Editing by Kit Rees and Dale Hudson