Markets

European stocks close lower ahead of earnings season

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closes 0.3 percent lower, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory.
  • Market focus largely attuned to corporate results, with major U.S. banks set to get the ball rolling later in the week.
  • German imports and exports fell more than expected in February, official data showed Monday.

European stocks closed lower on Monday, as investors prepared for what is expected to be a tough earnings season.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally around 0.3 percent lower, with most sectors and major bourses in negative territory.

Europe's bank stocks were among the worst performers, down 0.6 percent. Germany's Commerzbank slumped to the bottom of the sector amid ongoing merger talks with Deutsche Bank. A report said Monday that regulators have set strict standards for a deal, including demands for a detailed workforce reduction plan. Shares dropped 2.5 percent.

Looking at individual stocks, Henkel rose close to the top of the pan-European benchmark after CEO Hans Van Bylen confirmed the company's outlook for 2019 at its latest annual general meeting. Shares of the German chemicals group rose over 2 percent.

Meanwhile, France's Safran tumbled after Boeing slashed 737 Max output in the wake of two deadly crashes. The 737 Max 8 had used LEAP-1B engines made by CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric and Safran. Shares of the Paris-listed stock slipped almost 2 percent.

German imports and exports fell more than expected in February, official data showed Monday. The Federal Statistics Office said seasonally adjusted exports dipped 1.3 percent month-on-month, while imports dropped 1.6 percent.

The latest batch of weak economic data makes it likely Europe's largest economy will register relatively disappointing growth over the first three months of the year.

Earnings worries

On Wall Street, stocks fell as investors digested strong gains from the previous week.

Market focus is largely attuned to corporate results, with major U.S. banks set to get the ball rolling later in the week.

J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo are both poised to report their latest figures on Friday.

Analysts have warned that the upcoming earnings season could be the first quarter of contracting corporate results since 2016.

Back in Europe, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is still searching for a new plan to secure a delay to Brexit from EU leaders at a summit on Wednesday.

U.K. lawmakers have so far failed to approve a withdrawal agreement, with the world's fifth-largest economy set to leave the bloc on April 12.