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Europe Markets

March 28, 2018, 12:47 p.m. EDT

European stocks turn up as Shire’s surge helps offset tech losses

Unilever jumps after upgrade

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch

The Stoxx Europe 600 Tech Index was under pressure Wednesday.

European equities swung higher Wednesday, as gains for health-care shares led by biopharma company Shire PLC helped offset losses in the battered tech sector.

How markets moved

The Stoxx Europe 600 index (STOXX:XX:SXXP) ended up 0.5% to 369.26, led by the utility and health care sectors. But the technology sector fared the worst. The index on Tuesday climbed 1.2%, driven by easing concerns about a global trade war.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index (PAR:FR:PX1) reversed course and rose 0.3% to 5,130.44, and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index (FTSE:UK:UKX) turned higher, finishing up by 0.6% at 7,044.74.

Germany’s DAX 30 (XEX:DX:DAX) fell 0.3% to 11,940.71, but pared a deeper loss.

The euro (XTUP:EURUSD) traded at $1.2349, down from $1.2405 late Tuesday in New York.

In the fixed-income market, the yield on Germany’s 10-year bund (XTUP:BX:TMBMKDE-10Y)  was up less than 1 basis point at 0.50%.

See: Brace for more ‘poor’ action by U.K. stocks, says world’s largest asset manager

What drove markets

The health-care sector emerged as a bright spot in Wednesday’s trade, lit up as Shire PLC shares   rallied as much as 26% after Japanese biopharma Takeda Pharmaceutical Corp. (TKS:JP:4502)  said it’s considering making an offer for its rival. Shire shares closed up 15.6%, the strongest percentage gain since June 2014.

European equities had dropped more than 1% earlier in the session following a rout in tech stocks on Wall Street Tuesday. That slide left the Nasdaq Composite Index (AMERICAN:COMP) down 2.9% for Tuesday and while losses were less pronounced in the follow-up U.S. session on Wednesday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq was still in the red.

On Wednesday, the Stoxx Europe 600 Technology Index (STOXX:XX:SX8P)  was dragged down 1.8%, its worst session since March 22, according to FactSet data.

Investors dumped tech-sector shares, which have been at the forefront of Wall Street’s run higher for more than a year, on various regulatory concerns. That included developments for electric car maker Tesla Inc. (NAS:TSLA)  and news that the U.S. is considering a ban on Chinese investment in certain sensitive technologies.

Nervousness among investors have led many to flock to the perceived safety of bonds, sending prices higher and yields lower. The yield on Germany’s 10-year bund on Wednesday fell below 0.5% for the first time since January, according to Tradeweb data. Lower bond yields helped interest-rate sensitive utility stocks gain ground Wednesday.

Opinion: Who gets hurt in a trade war? Mostly not China

What strategists are saying

“Stock markets are likely to remain explosively volatile and wildly unpredictable amid the ongoing trade drama between the U.S. and China,” said Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, in a note.

“While easing fears of a trade war initially supported risk sentiment, reports that the Trump administration may crackdown on Chinese investments into U.S. companies rekindled jitters. With the U.S.-China trade developments being a key theme driving markets, investors should expect the unexpected,” he said.

Stock movers

Tech names finished at the bottom of the Stoxx 600 index. Chip maker and Apple (NAS:AAPL)  iPhone supplier AMS AG (SWX:CH:AMS)  sank 9.8% and chip maker STMicroelectronics NV (NYS:STM)  fell 5.3%. Dutch semiconductor company ASML Holding NV (AMS:NL:ASML)  gave up 4.5% and Germany chip maker Infineon Technologies AG (FRA:DE:IFX)  finished down by 4%.

Unilever PLC (LON:UK:ULVR)  leapt 4.7% after UBS upgraded the consumer products heavyweight to buy from neutral and said a roughly 17% drop in its shares since October “creates a compelling entry point,” for investors.

Subsea 7 SA (OSL:NO:SUBC)  fell 5.9% following a ratings downgrade of the oil-services provider to hold from buy at Jefferies. “Backlog phasing and margin outlook drives material downgrades to our estimates,” said analyst Mark Wilson in a research note.

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