By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
European stocks slumped on Thursday, losing ground for a fourth session as traders looked for a new catalyst after the breathtaking rally from the depths of the coronavirus crisis.
Up 32% from its March lows, the Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.17% skidded 2.6%.
Decliners included airline Deutsche Lufthansa /zigman2/quotes/205496028/delayed DE:LHA -1.10% , oil service firm John Wood Group /zigman2/quotes/203993058/delayed UK:WG +5.67% and travel agent TUI /zigman2/quotes/207049334/delayed UK:TUI -1.58% .
The German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.05% fell 2.8%, French CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 0.00% tumbled 3% and U.K. FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.74% dropped 2.6%.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210407078/delayed YM00 +1.08% fell 620 points, after the 282-point drop for the blue chips /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.11% on Wednesday.
The Federal Reserve didn’t make too many surprise moves in its decision announced after markets had closed in Asia and Europe. The Fed committed to buy Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities at the current pace, and Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank wasn’t “thinking about thinking about” raising interest rates.
“The Fed would have had to deliver something along the lines of yield curve control in order to outperform market expectations yesterday,” said Jim Leaviss, chief investment officer of public fixed income at M&G. “Central banks have been adopting the Spinal Tap model of turning it up to 10 and then 11, getting louder and louder. This feels like the start of some normalization of central bank narrative.”
“Yes, investors appear to have continued locking profits after the recent steep surge in equities, but we don’t expect this to last for long. Eventually, the continued easing of the lockdown measures, combined with more data suggesting that the worse with regards to the coronavirus is behind us, may allow investors to increase their risk exposures again,” said Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group.
Just Eat Takeaway /zigman2/quotes/216303066/delayed UK:JET -1.37% /zigman2/quotes/201653805/delayed NL:TKWY -1.42% shares edged higher after announcing its deal to buy U.S. meal-delivery service Grubhub /zigman2/quotes/210404212/composite GRUB -3.93% in an all-stock deal. Just Eat shares had dropped 13% on Wednesday as The Wall Street Journal had reported the deal was close.
Unilever’s Dutch-listed shares /zigman2/quotes/222909224/delayed NL:UNA +0.16% rose 3.5% after announcing it would consolidate its dual-headed legal structure under the U.K.-listed entity /zigman2/quotes/205449809/delayed UK:ULVR +0.13% /zigman2/quotes/204685760/composite UL +0.07% . The Anglo-Dutch household giant also said it could demerge its tea business and possibly spin off its foods and refreshment division.
Analysts at UBS noted that Unilever will only need approval of just over 50% of the Dutch shareholders, whereas its previous plan to consolidate under the Dutch entity would have required the approval of 75% of the U.K. shareholders. They also noted the timing may have been structured to be completed ahead of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Online grocery chain Ocado Group /zigman2/quotes/207225647/delayed UK:OCDO +1.92% slumped 6% after selling £657 million of stock. Together with a bond offering, it raised £1.01 billion.