Coronavirus restrictions, SAP slump hit European stocks

(Reuters) – European stocks fell on Monday as Italy and Spain imposed fresh restrictions to control a resurgence in coronavirus cases, while shares in German heavyweight SAP slumped after it cut its 2020 outlook.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Staff

The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX declined 0.5% and the euro zone blue-chip index .STOXX50E tumbled 1.4%, with risk appetite globally sapped by worries over slow progress on a new U.S. stimulus bill and looming presidential election.

The German DAX .GDAXI dropped 2.0% after software company SAP SAPG.DE abandoned medium-term profitability targets and cautioned that its business would take longer than expected to recover from the pandemic hit.

Shares of Europe’s most valuable tech firm tumbled 18%, set for their worst decline in 24 years, with the wider tech index .SX8P down 5.2%.

SAP’s earnings came as a blip in the third-quarter earnings season, which has been largely better than feared.

Meanwhile, Italy has ordered bars and restaurants to close by 6 p.m. and to shut public gyms, cinemas, while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a new state of emergency as many Southern European countries reported their highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single day.

Europe on Saturday became the second region after Latin America to surpass 250,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Nick Nelson, head of European equity strategy at UBS, said the Swiss bank’s target for STOXX 600 into the year-end is 340 points, about 5% below the current level, in part due to the impact of the latest round of restrictions.

“Not a large move, but we see some modest downside into year-end partly because of the mobility restrictions and a slowdown in the macro momentum with PMIs falling below 50,” he said.

Surveys of euro zone purchasing managers last week showed economic activity slipped back into decline in October, heightening expectations for a double-dip recession as a second wave of virus sweeps across the continent.

Milan’s blue-chip index .FTMIB fell 0.9%, even as ratings agency Standard and Poor’s upgraded Italy’s sovereign outlook to stable from negative.

Oil majors Total TOTF.PA and Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L fell over 1% as crude prices slumped almost 3% on worries surging COVID-19 cases in the United States and Europe would hurt demand. [O/R]

London’s FTSE 100 .FTSE was flat as banks found support after a media report that UK regulators are considering plans to allow banks to start paying dividends again next year. [.L]

Healthcare stocks .SXDP also remained supportive, with AstraZeneca AZN.L gaining 1.1% after it resumed the U.S. trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

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