LONDON (Reuters) - European shares shuddered, then recovered, on Tuesday after Beijing retaliated with new tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, less than 24 hours after U.S. President Donald Trump imposed 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.
Having shrugged off the U.S. move in morning trading, the pan-European STOXX 600 tumbled to a session low after China's retaliatory blow, down as much as 0.2 percent while the leading index of euro zone stocks .STOXX50E fell 0.1 percent.
Both indices recovered rapidly, though, as it became clear the tariff levels announced by China were lower than previously expected - imposing 5 to 10 percent tariffs on U.S. goods it had previously listed for 10 to 20 percent tariff rates.
The STOXX50E ended the day up 0.3 percent with the STOXX 600 up 0.1 percent.
Investors and analysts had been perplexed by early market moves which shrugged off Washington’s escalation of the tit-for-tat tariff spat waging between the U.S. and China.
Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management, highlighted how important Chinese retaliation was to the outlook for markets.
“A less-than-proportional round of retaliation would likely be taken positively by the market, reducing the risk of a significant tit-for-tat escalation in the conflict,” he wrote in a note.
Explaining the market’s sanguine reaction earlier, Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com said on Tuesday the fine print of the new tariffs could also be seen as providing some relief.
“Exemptions have turned this into something of a sell the rumor, buy the fact type scenario for investors”, he said.
Thomas Costerg, senior U.S. economist at Pictet, said ahead of the U.S. trade announcement that investors might well take the view that the Trump administration had shown some restraint as it could have imposed even higher tariffs.
“Ten percent could actually come as a relief”, he said, adding that such a figure would be “bad but manageable”.
On the corporate front, dealmaking prompted steep moves across European bourses.
The top gainer was Norway’s Schibsted (SBSTA.OL), up 9.1 percent after it said it would spin off its international online classifieds.
Denmark’s Pandora (PNDORA.CO) jumped as much as 10 percent, ending the day up 6.8 percent after a media report that private equity funds are studying a potential takeover bid.
“While we acknowledge that the decelerating top-line performance ... continues to be worrying, Pandora is still a relatively strong cash-generative business which we believe could be turned around should management be replaced,” commented Berenberg analysts.
Swiss chemical group Clariant (CLN.S) was up 8 percent after it announced it would merge its high-performance materials business with that of new anchor shareholder Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) 2010.SE, to focus on higher-value speciality chemicals.
Zalando (ZALG.DE) Europe’s biggest pure online fashion retailer, was the worst performer, down 14 percent after blaming a long, hot summer for cutting its 2018 outlook.
Its main shareholder, Kinnevik (KINVb.ST), which holds about a 31 percent stake in Zalando, fell 7 percent.
Shares in Dutch digital mapping firm TomTom (TOM2.AS) lost nearly a quarter of their value, ending the day down 24 percent after Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi announced a partnership with rival Google.
European stocks remain unpopular with investors who show a marked preference for U.S. equities. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s September fund manager survey showed investors’ allocations to euro zone equities at an 18-month low.
Julien Ponthus; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Richard Balmforth