MILAN (Reuters) - European shares ended little changed on Friday as the euro’s rally dimmed appetite for regional stocks but talk about possible cuts to European Central Bank stimulus boosted banks.
The broader pan-European STOXX 600 benchmark edged 0.15 percent higher, while euro zone blue chips ended unchanged.
After suffering four straight sessions in the red, European banks .SX7P rose 0.9 percent, leading gainers in Europe, after Reuters reported that European Central Bank policymakers had agreed at Thursday’s meeting on the need for a cut in stimulus.
ECB officials were in broad agreement that their next step would be to reduce their bond purchases, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussion said.
Analysts say a strong euro could have a negative impact on bank earnings, although that could be mitigated by a boost to their capital adequacy ratio, while strength in the currency accompanied by strong economic growth is seen as positive.
Mediobanca Securities said that Spanish lenders BBVA (BBVA.MC) and Santander (SAN.MC) could be among the most hit in terms of earnings but were also expected to get a good capital boost, while Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) was seen benefiting both on core capital and earnings.
The banking sector’s lending business benefits from higher rates and investors fear the ECB could delay policy tightening if the euro keeps on strengthening against the dollar.
However, for Laurent Gaetani, head of Degroof Petercam Gestion, the weakening of some banks’ share price presents an opportunity to buy on the dip.
“These are entry points,” the French asset manager told Reuters, adding he was “overweight” on the sector.
Elsewhere, shares in British pub operator Greene King (GNK.L) fell 15.7 percent after a weak sales update and French fuel storage company Rubis (RUBF.PA) was down 4.1 percent after its first half results.
Another big faller was France’s Hermes International (HRMS.PA) whose shares fell 2.6 percent. The luxury group had been expected to join the CAC 40 index but STMicroelectronics (STM.PA), up 0.6 percent, was admitted instead.
Akzo Nobel (AKZO.AS) lost 0.6 percent after it issued a profit warning and announced a revamp that will include the chief financial officer stepping aside and a shake-up to its paints and industrial coatings businesses.
In the automobile sector .SXAP, Volkswagen (VOWG.DE) was up 0.5 percent after reports it was actively working on deals to sell non-core assets accounting for as much as 20 percent of the German carmaker’s annual revenues.
Its French counter part Peugeot (PEUP.PA) fell 3.1 percent after Exane BNP Paribas cut its target price by 4 percent and its rating to “underperform” from “neutral”.
Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Alison Williams