European shares extend losing streak to five days

By Brian Gorman

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) – European shares fell for the fifth straight day on Tuesday, with investors worried by slowing economic growth and the euro zone peripheral debt crisis.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares fell 0.1 percent to 1,104.05 points, the lowest close since mid-March. It has lost 3.3 percent in the five sessions in June. “Equity markets can easily see another 10 percent drop from here, and that would be my buying opportunity. The sovereign debt issue has still not been addressed by politicians. All we’re doing with these bailouts is putting off the inevitable,” said David Coombs, fund manager at Rathbone Brothers, which has 15.2 billion pounds under management.

Greek shares lost 2 percent with Greek banks down 3.7 percent.

Europe must take tough decisions before the IMF can release its next block of aid for Greece, the Fund warned on Tuesday, while ratings agencies and German banks cast doubt on whether private investors can be expected to help.

“I can see a Greek default, and more talk about whether it stays in the euro,” said Coombs. “I’m in preserving capital mode at the moment, with defensive equity income strategies. It’s boring, but boring is good at the moment.”

Miners helped limit the index’s losses, buoyed by metals prices as the dollar hit a one-month low, with the Federal Reserve expected to keep rates near zero for some time following recent weak economic data.

The STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources Index rose 0.7 percent. Rio Tinto, Vedanta and Xstrata rose between 1.1 and 1.2 percent.

Utilities also gained. E.ON climbed 3.2 percent after UBS added the company to its “key call” list, saying the stock’s 20 percent underperformance in 2011 was unwarranted. The utilities sector index rose 1.2 percent.

Across Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 ended the day flat; Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC40 rose 0.3 and 0.2 percent.

 

ATTRACTIVE VALUATIONS

For some investors, the recent pull-back has helped shares look cheap, especially in Europe. Equity valuations on Thomson Reuters Datastream showed the STOXX Europe 600 carrying a one-year forward price-to-earnings of 10, compared with 12.6 for the S&P 500.

Felicity Smith, fund manager at Bedlam Asset Management which manages $700 million, said that in the current environment, there were buying opportunities.

“We will stay in a stock-picker’s market and think those companies which are less dependent on discretionary spending and on abnormally strong economic growth are better placed.”

She likes companies that supply materials and equipment to the agricultural sector and prefers pharmaceutical companies, which are becoming more efficient, cutting costs and improving their new drug pipelines.

Credit Suisse strategists said in a note recent economic weakness was just a mid-cycle slowdown, and they favoured life insurance companies, arguing government bond yields would trade higher as the recovery strengthened.

Among life insurance companies, Credit Suisse likes AXA and Allianz. AXA rose 1.6 percent, while Allianz gained 0.9 percent.

Investors will watch Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech at 1945 GMT for clues on the U.S. central bank’s view of the slowdown and its impact on monetary policy. (Editing by Will Waterman)