A previous version of this story published on March 14, misstated the historical weekly data in the second paragraph. The story has been corrected.
LONDON (MarketWatch) — European stock markets traded with broad-based losses on Friday, as continuing tensions in Ukraine and worries about slowing economic growth in China hampered the investing mood.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP -0.63% dropped 0.7% to 322.23, setting it back 3.3% for the week, the biggest weekly loss since late January.
The pan-European benchmark was weighed by a 2.9% drop for French conglomerate Bouygues SA /zigman2/quotes/202035785/delayed FR:EN -0.48% amid developments in the company’s plan to takeover Vivendi SA’s (TICKER:FR:VIV) phone business. French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said the board of Vivendi prefers cable operator Altice SA’s bid to buy a controlling stake in its SFR phone unit, rather than the offer from rival Bouygues. Vivendi shares reversed course to close up 0.2%.
Crimea referendum: What you need to know
A referendum in Crimea to decide whether the region will stay within Ukraine or become part of Russia will take place this Sunday. Here's all you need to know about the vote. Photo: Getty Images
The French CAC 40 index /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 -0.61% closed the session 0.8% lower at 4,216.37, leaving the benchmark at its lowest level since early February. It lost 3.5% on a weekly basis, the sharpest drop since the week ended Jan. 24.
Meanwhile, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -1.50% fell 0.4% to 6,527.89, and notched a 2.8% decline since last Friday.
But Germany’s DAX 30 index /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.50% on Friday turned 0.4% higher to settle at 9,056.41, aided by a 3.2% rise in shares of Fresenius SE & Co. KGaA /zigman2/quotes/200900833/delayed XE:FRE -1.11% after the German healthgroup proposed a three-for-one stock split. The DAX, however, still logged a 3.2% weekly decline.
In the U.S., the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.20% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.29% each held on to small gains Friday after a March survey on consumer sentiment fell to its lowest reading since November. However, U.S. stocks were also poised to fall for the week.
Broader losses came as investors shunned riskier assets such as equities ahead of Sunday’s referendum in Ukraine that’s likely to see citizens of the Crimea region vote to return the Black Sea peninsula to Russia. Violent clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk overnight between pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine activists reportedly left one person dead and several injured.
The Ukrainian government, the U.S. and the European Union contend the referendum is illegal, and a vote in favor of rejoining Russia would likely be followed by a round of U.S.- and European-led sanctions against Moscow.
But that scenario is unlikely to cause long-lasting turmoil as it’s already priced into the markets, most analysts said. In Friday’s trade, however, Russian stocks fell ahead of the vote with the MICEX Index down 0.7% at 1,240.69.
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Meanwhile, lingering uncertainty about a slowdown in China’s economy also kept investors on edge. Data out earlier in the week showing a surprisingly large drop in exports, coupled with disappointing industrial-output numbers and retail sales out on Thursday has triggered a wave of fresh concerns the world’s second-largest economy is heading for a hard landing.
Copper prices have been hit particularly hard by the concerns, although prices rebounded slightly on Friday.
Mining firms, which are sensitive to growth in China as well as the broader trading sentiment, dropped on Friday. Shares of heavyweight Rio Tinto PLC /zigman2/quotes/208934945/delayed UK:RIO -1.77% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -0.83% /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -0.36% lost 0.7% and Glencore Xstrata PLC /zigman2/quotes/201400686/delayed UK:GLEN -1.85% /zigman2/quotes/209462106/composite GLCNF -1.56% fell 2.5%.
Among other notable movers in Europe, shares of Pandora AS /zigman2/quotes/205851124/delayed DK:PNDORA -0.21% lost 2.9% after the Danish jewelry firm said shareholders had agreed to sell 13 million existing shares to institutional investors.
Shares of Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB /zigman2/quotes/201173722/delayed SE:SEB.A +0.05% erased 3.1% after UBS cut the Swedish bank to sell from neutral, with the analysts saying citing regulatory risks ahead of general elections in September.
Shares of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA /zigman2/quotes/202470451/delayed IT:BMPS -0.13% rose 2% after Credit Suisse lifted the Italian bank to neutral from underperform.
Iberdrola SA /zigman2/quotes/202060935/delayed ES:IBE -0.58% advanced 0.6% after Deutsche Bank lifted the utility firm to buy from hold.