Europe close: Stocks slip as investors grapple with Covid-19 headwinds
European stocks slumped at the end of the week as investors ignored long-awaited US stimulus proposals from President-elect Joe Biden and focused on news a temporary slowdown of shipments of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine.
Early in the afternoon, Pfizer said that it will slow deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine over the next three to four weeks in order to upgrade a key facility and boost production across the remainder of 2021.
Sentiment was also dampened by news of fresh Covid restrictions in Germany and France.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was 1.01% lower to 407.85. Germany's DAX was down 1.44% at 13,787.73 and France’s CAC was 1.22% lower to 5,611.69.
Overnight, Biden unveiled a $1.9bn stimulus package announcement on Thursday, including enhancing direct payments to Americans by $1,400.
“It seems the market’s view is that it is all well and good promising such stimulus – now Biden needs to get it through a precariously balanced, and distracted, Senate. If the incoming President can achieve that, then investors might be in the mood to celebrate,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
“For now, however, they were too busy crunching the latest batch of covid-19-impacted numbers. In the UK that meant news the economy contracted by 2.6% in November – better than the -4.6% expected, but a screeching halt to six consecutive months of expansion. Industrial and manufacturing production both underperformed, at -0.1% and 0.7% respectively, but with construction output ahead of estimates at 1.9%.”
In German, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wanted “very fast action” after the country saw a record number of deaths from the coronavirus, while the French government is strengthening border controls from Monday and imposed an earlier curfew from Saturday to curb the spread of the virus.
In company news, Aveva shares topped the gainers after the company said it was confident in its outlook for the current year after a "strong" third quarter improved revenue growth to about 1.5% in the nine months to the end of December.
Shares in shopping centre owner Hammerson fell on news that James Lenton plans to step down as chief financial officer.
German business software group SAP dipped even after it released preliminary annual results that came at the high end of guidance, but forecast a decline in operating profit in 2021.
Siemens Energy retreated after General Electric accused a subsidiary of the power distribution company of using stolen trade secrets to rig bids for lucrative contracts.