Europe close: Covid concerns continue to drag on stocks
European stocks ended the session on a mixed note although investors remained concerned about the potential impact on the global economic recovery of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Underscoring those concerns, the minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia's last policy meeting revealed a bit of caution on the health front.
That was followed during the European trading session by reports that Austria might be set to tighten restrictions on travellers entering the country.
Against that backdrop, the pan-European Stoxx 600 benchmark index was up 0.07% to 473.78, alongside a 0.02% dip for the German Dax to 15,921.95.
Italy's FTSE Mib on the other hand fell 0.85% to 26,224.79 while Spain's Ibex 35 dropped 0.68% to 8,865.70.
"Losses for the likes of Tui, IAG, and easyJet come as Austria lay out plans to only allow fully vaccinated travellers for a limited amount of time," said Josh Mahony, senior market analyst at IG.
"The risk that vaccine protection deteriorates over time poses a new risk to consider, with yet another hurdle being imposed just as the initial push to vaccinate the population are overcome."
Contributing to the downbeat mood as well, shares in Asia-Pacific were mostly lower overnight, with Chinese internet stocks in Hong Kong falling again as regulatory fears resurfaced. Tencent, Alibaba and JD.com were all seen trading lower, shortly after China’s market regulator issued draft rules designed to prevent unfair competition on the internet.
In the UK, official data revealed the number of employees on British company payrolls rose month-on-month by 182,000 in July. However, that remained 201,000 below pre-Covid levels.
Furthermore, the Office for National Statistics said that vacancies rose by 290,000 from the previous quarter to 953,000. That marked a 168,000 increase compared to pre-pandemic levels between January and March 2020.
The Eurozone economy expanded 2% in the second quarter, confirming a preliminary reading, according to figures released by Eurostat. Employment in the bloc rose 0.5% over the three months through June, which was also in line with forecasts.
In equity news, Dutch tech firm Prosus, which has a stake in Chinese tech giant Tencent, dropped 3.2%.
BHP Group shares rose after the mining giant posted its best annual profit in nearly a decade and said it would sell its petroleum assets to Woodside Petroleum.
Online trading platform Plus500 jumped 5% as it forecast annual revenue to be “significantly ahead” of analysts’ estimates.
Just Eat Takeaway rose after the online food delivery platform reported lower than expected interim losses.