European shares hit two-year low as Huawei arrest fuels trade worries

LONDON (Reuters) - European shares fell on Thursday after the arrest of a top executive at Huawei fed new worries over the Sino-U.S. trade war, hitting export-oriented tech and auto stocks.

The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Staff

Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada and faced extradition to the United States, a development that cast doubt on a 90-day truce on trade struck between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping on Saturday.

By 0933 GMT, the pan-regional STOXX 600 .STOXX index had fallen 1.8 percent to its lowest level since December 2016. The index was down for its third day in a row, after dropping earlier this week on concern over an economic slowdown in the United States.

“Investors are back in risk-off mode with markets falling in the UK, mainland Europe and across Asia. Markets are worried by numerous things: global economic growth, rising interest rates and the US/China trade war,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

The export-oriented DAX .GDAX index, which has been weakened by concern trade tensions would curb growth in China's economy, fell 2.2 percent.

Auto stocks .SXAP were among those falling the most. They dropped 2.9 percent to their lowest in more than two years, led by a 3.2 percent drop in German carmaker Daimler DAIGn.DE.

Tech .SX8P shares also fell 2.9 percent. Huawei supplier STMicro STM.MI lost 4.7 percent, AMS AMS.S 6 percent and Dialog Semi DLGS.DE 2.6 percent. Ericsson ERICb.ST. and Nokia, rival of Huawei, outperformed .

A Wall Street Journal report last month said the U.S. government was trying to persuade wireless and internet providers in allied countries to avoid equipment from Huawei.

BT BT.L said on Wednesday it was removing Huawei's equipment from the core of its 3G and 4G mobile operations and would not use the Chinese company in central parts of the next network.

“These tactics could effectively create a duopoly in the Western markets for Ericsson and Nokia for 5G,” said Neil Campling, co-head of the global thematic group at Mirabaud Securities.

Ericsson ERICb.ST rose 1.5 percent, while the Paris-listed shares of Nokia NOKIA.PA added 0.1 percent.

Elsewhere, Diasorin DIAS.MI lost the most on the STOXX 600, falling 7 percent after Kepler Cheuvreux downgraded the Italian biotech company to hold from buy.

In France, shares that had been hit by recent protest over fuel-tax plans, such as retailer Carrefour CARR.PA, motorway operator Vinci SGEF.PA, and hotel group Accor ACCP.PA, fell 1.6 to 2.2 percent.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government said on Wednesday it was dropping further fuel-tax increases in next year’s budget in the face of protests across the country.

Oil stocks .SXEP fell more than 2 percent as crude oil prices fell on fears that a meeting by producer group OPEC on Thursday would not cut production enough to ease a supply glut.

No sector in Europe was trading in positive territory.

Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Josephine Mason