Friday, January 15, 2016

European shares fall, roiled by BHP Billiton and oil

European shares fell on Friday, knocked by losses in commodity-related stocks as BHP Billiton suffered from a writedown and oil fell below $30 a barrel.

BHP Billiton shed 6 per cent, the top loser on the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300, after it said it would write down the value of its US shale assets by $7.2 billion, cementing expectations that it will be forced to cut its dividend for the first time in more than 25 years.

The STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index was down 4.4 per cent, with Rio Tinto, Glencore and Antofagasta also among top fallers.

All four stocks also suffered from target price cuts by Japanese bank Nomura. Copper has hit a new 6-1/2 year low this week and was set for its second straight weekly loss.

The oil and gas sector was also under pressure, down 2.6 percent. Brent and U.S. crude both fell below $30 a barrel, as markets braced for more oil out of Iran.

"Stocks are being driven by oil, and given that the Iranian sanctions are due to be lifted, that's causing even more nervousness about this glut of oil that we have," said Zeg Choudhry, managing director of LONTRAD.

Concerns over commodities and Chinese growth have marked a rocky start of the year for global markets. Chinese shares closed at their lowest level since December 2014, rocked again by falling oil.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 1.2 per cent at 1,317.95 points by 0915 GMT, set for its third straight weekly loss.

It fell 6.7 per cent last week when China allowed its currency to devalue and is down another 1.7 per cent.

"The extreme move in oil is going to keep things volatile ... (and) we probably won't get a real stabilisation until February now," Choudhry said.

Among other fallers, Brenntag dropped 5.2 per cent after the chemicals firm was cut to "hold" from "buy" by Deutsche Bank.

"Brenntag's business model is one of our favourites in the space but we remain cautious on the U.S. outlook, given that industrial indicators are weaker since our last update," analysts at Deutsche Bank said in a note.

The top riser was H&M, up 2.6 per cent after it posted a rise in sales in December which beat forecasts.

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