Europe finishes in negative territory as financial stocks drop 1.6%; sterling slips

Key Points
  • The pan-European STOXX 600 came off session lows, to close provisionally down 0.66 percent
  • The pound fell on growing concerns over the future of Theresa May as U.K. prime minister
  • STOXX 600's biggest movers: Freenet rose 4.74 percent, while EDF sank 10.39 percent

European stocks closed in the red on Monday as investors focused on earnings and monitored political woes in the U.K.

The pan-European STOXX 600 came off its session lows, to close provisionally down 0.66 percent. Almost all sectors ended the day lower.

Looking to major bourses, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 dipped 0.24 percent by the close, while France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX fell further, closing 0.73 and 0.4 percent lower respectively. In peripheral markets, Switzerland's SMI outperformed other bourses, closing up 0.31 percent.

Financial services was the worst-performing sector, closing down 1.58 percent, as investors showed signs of concern over the future of tax reform plans in the U.S. Consequently, U.S. equities struggled to post gains around the European close, as market-watchers fretted that tax reform may not arrive this year.

Food and Beverage, however, outperformed fellow sectors, closing up 0.3 percent as a sector, with Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut leading the sector, finishing up over 3 percent.

The FTSE 100 was the standout gainer in mid-morning deals boosted by sterling weakness, but closed slightly lower, dragged down by financial, retail and industrial stocks. Nonetheless, sterling has remained under pressure on growing concerns over the future of Theresa May as prime minister.

A report published by the U.K.'s Sunday Times newspaper showed that a group of 40 Conservative members of parliament had agreed to sign a letter of no-confidence in the U.K. leader. The British currency was 0.61 percent down against the dollar at the European market close.

EDF tumbles over 10 percent

In individual stocks news, EDF hit the bottom of the European benchmark, ending down by 10.39 percent after the group lowered its core earnings and cash flow guidance for 2018. In other energy news, Shell agreed to sell almost two-thirds of its stake in Woodside Petroleum for $1.7 billion.

Building materials group Kingspan dropped 6.5 percent, after it pointed out that it had seen recent evidence of "a slowdown in U.K. commercial and industrial activity." This comes after the company saw sales rise 19 percent during the first nine months of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016.

Sticking with the U.K., several British retailers sank to the bottom of the sector. This follows a Visa survey that revealed Monday that overall spending by British consumers in October had fallen at its fastest rate in over four years.

Meanwhile, Sonova shares fell 2.4 percent after the Swiss hearing aid maker reported first-half results that missed analyst expectations.

However, some stocks posted gains on the first trading day of the week. Freenet shot up 4.74 percent, after Independent Research raised its price target on the stock.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs raised its target price on both TDC and Telenet, causing both stocks to close up near to the top of the STOXX 600 benchmark.