Europe close: Markets falter as Trump renews EU tariff threats
Stocks on the continent remained below the waterline as markets closed on Wednesday, after the US president renewed his threat of trade tariffs against the European Union.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 was down 0.08% at 423.04, with the CAC 40 in Paris off 0.58% at 6,010.98, and Frankfurt’s DAX 0.3% weaker at 13,515.75.
In Madrid, the IBEX 35 was 0.39% weaker at 9,573.70, while Milan’s FTSE MIB fell 0.58% to 23,706.29, and closer to home, the FTSE 100 slid 0.51% to 7,571.92.
The common currency was last weaker against sterling, falling 0.63% to £0.8441, while against the dollar, the euro managed gains of 0.03% to $1.1085.
In remarks made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Donald Trump said he wanted a deal with Brussels before the next presidential elections in the US, in November.
"They have trade barriers where you can’t trade, they have tariffs all over the place, they make it impossible," he said.
On a more positive note, ahead of a World Health Organisation meeting to decide whether a Wuhan strain of coronavirus in China justified a public health emergency, investors appeared to be playing it cool, with a number of commentators arguing that the new sickness was for now similar to the typical flu.
According to Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics, the mortality rate of the virus was closer to that of the seasonal flu, and not to the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
Still, the Stoxx 600’s sector gauge for travel and leisure turned weaker again by the end of the day, slipping 0.01%, while the subindex for automobiles and parts was down 1.03%.
Losses in Milan came after the news that Luigi di Maio - the leader of one of Italy's governing coalition parties, the Five Star League - would stand down as its leader, while staying on as foreign minister.
Commentators suggested that could indicate divisions among the party’s rank and file, with those reports initially sending yields on benchmark 10-year Italian government bonds eight basis points higher, to 1.42%, although they had since fallen back.
In France, the country's statistics office, INSEE, reported an improvement in its manufacturing sector confidence gauge to 100.0 in January, from a reading of 98.0 for December.
Further south, in Italy, ISTAT said orders from industry were flat month-on-month in November and 3.1% lower on the year in non-seasonally adjusted terms.
On the corporate side of things, Daimler stock was down 2.12% after the carmaker reported a roughly one half drop in its 2019 operating profits, on a before interest and tax basis, to €5.6bn.
Towards the bottom of the pile was K+S - the world's largest producer of salt and the continent's largest supplier of potash, a key ingredient for fertilisers - which was 8.22% weaker.