Europe open: Stocks slip amid news of coronavirus cases in South Korea
Stocks have started the session lower amid news of a flare up in new cases of the China coronavirus in South Korea and reports of possible cases in Iran.
Those reports more than offset news of a further slowdown in new cases in China and the feel-good effect from the fresh record highs hit overnight by stocks on Wall Street.
"Some of the rampant bullishness of the past few days has eased off, with small losses in Europe and the FTSE 100 eking out a tiny gain, as investors watch for the spread of the coronavirus in South Korea and Japan," said IG's Chris Beauchamp.
"But the pause may not last long, since this market has shown scant regard for the doom-laden predictions of the virus. Admittedly, the first deaths aboard the cruise ship in Japan are concerning, but the South Korean move is more of a precautionary measure, and in such developed countries the risk of broader infection is limited."
As of 1030 GMT, the benchmark Stoxx 600 was lower by 0.41% at 432.09, alongside a 0.17% dip on the German Dax to 13,766.05, while the FTSE Mibtel was giving back 0.60% to 25,324.82.
Euro/dollar meanwhile was drifting lower by 0.2% to 1.0789 and front month Brent crude oil futures were off by 0.136% to $59.02 a barrel on the ICE.
Overnight, the World Health Organisation reported a 1.5% drop in the number of new virus cases in China on Thursday to reach 1,872.
But in South Korea, officials said the number of cases had jumped from 31 to 104, with the epicentre in the city of Daegu, especially among members of the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, formerly known as Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which authorities describe as a sect.
In company news, shares of A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S were edging up despite the world's largest shipping company having said that 2020 will be impacted by "considerable uncertainties" due to the outbreak's toll on global trade.
Elekta AB was the top faller on the Stoxx 600 after the radiation medicine specialist posted a 6% drop in gross order intake to SEK 4,276m in its third quarter as its US business failed to live up to expectations.
Air France was 6% lower alongside, having announced that the fallout from the virus would result in a €150-200.0m hit through April.
In Spain, Telefonica was walloped as management unveiled a 0.6% dip in full-year reported sales to €48.442bn, although free cash flow jumped by 20.6% to €5.912m, to hit its highest mark since 2013.
French insurer Axa was also under the cosh after reporting lower-than-expected profits on the back of restructuring costs.