August 30, 2018 / 7:43 AM / in 5 months

China trade fears end European shares' recovery

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares fell back on Thursday, tracking a decline in Asian trading as weakness in Chinese markets eclipsed optimism that a NAFTA deal could be struck by Friday’s deadline.

The German share price index, DAX board, is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Tilman Blasshofer

The pan-European STOXX 600 extended early losses to 0.5 percent by 0830 GMT, while Germany's DAX .GDAXI, which is sensitive to China due to its prominence as a German export market, dropped 0.9 percent.

Chinese stocks fell after a Reuters poll showed activity in the factory sector likely slowed for the third straight month in August amid uncertainty over an escalating trade war with the United States.

In Europe, trade-sensitive mining stocks .SXPP tumbled 1.3 percent and autos .SXAP fell 0.7 percent.

“It’s a balancing act with on the one hand relatively positive momentum behind NAFTA, but when the focus turns to China and trade war it doesn’t seem like an end is in sight because any escalation plays to Trump’s rhetoric of how he’s protecting U.S. prosperity and jobs,” said Gary Waite, portfolio manager at Walker Crips Investment Management.

Earnings reports caused some sharp moves in individual stocks.

Shares in Europe’s largest property company Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW.AS) fell 5 percent even though the company reported a boost to profits from its acquisition of Australian shopping centre giant Westfield.

Traders said a Morgan Stanley note weighed on the stock after analysts at the U.S. bank downgraded their view on the European property industry to “in-line” from “attractive”.

“For almost every property stock in Europe we expect a lower total return profile compared to what it has been delivering,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote.

They also said rising inflation and bond yields would increase differentiation in the sector and leverage would become more of a focus.

UK commercial property firm Intu (INTUP.L) fell 3.6 percent after Morgan Stanley cut the stock to underweight from equal-weight, and peer Hammerson (HMSO.L) fell 4.1 percent. Klepierre (LOIM.PA) lost 3.8 percent after a Morgan Stanley downgrade.

Real estate .SX86P was Europe’s worst-performing sector, down 1.3 percent.

Shares in Swedish radiation therapy gear maker Elekta (EKTAb.ST) fell 6.6 percent after it reported an unexpected drop in first-quarter operating profit.

Bouygues (BOUY.PA) was a rare gainer, up 3.1 percent after the French conglomerate stuck to its full year outlook for rising profitability as its telecoms division improved.

The prospect of Bouygues Telecom gaining market share sent shares in rival Iliad (ILD.PA), a telecoms disrupter offering cut-price contracts, tumbling 6.4 percent.

Bringing up the rear was Swiss asset manager GAM (GAMH.S) which sank a further 8.1 percent, hitting its lowest in more than nine years and taking its year-to-date losses to 51 percent.

GAM shares have sold off sharply since the firm suspended a top director and suspended, then liquidated, some bond funds.

Overall in Europe, escalating trade disputes have driven cyclical mining and autos sectors down this year while healthcare and technology take the lead.

With the second-quarter earnings season drawing to a close, companies in the MSCI Europe index .MIPO00000PEU have delivered 10.9 percent year-on-year earnings growth in euro terms.

Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Alison Williams and Susan Fenton

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