European stocks end in red for second week

By Simon Jessop

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares fell on Friday to end their second straight week in the red after U.S. jobs data failed to meet the market hype and fighting in Libya pushed oil prices higher.

Top fallers included world No. 2 retailer Carrefour (CARR.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), down 4.4 percent on concern over its strategy after a board member resigned, and top global ad firm WPP (WPP.L: Quote, Profile, Research) pulling back 2.6 percent after a pre-results run-up.

The FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: Quote, Profile, Research) index of leading European shares ended down 0.6 percent at 1,148.53 points to close the week down 1 percent. The index had traded up as high as 1,163.47 points earlier in the session.

Bumper U.S. private sector jobs data on Wednesday had raised hopes for similar from the much-watched non-farm payrolls, two London-based traders said, but the market sold off after it came in broadly in line with expectations.

“Expectations had been slowly rising on the back of some stronger economic data through the course of the week, so the bar was set relatively high this time around,” said Henk Potts, strategist at Barclays Wealth.

“Given the turmoil we’ve seen on the geopolitical stage, given the disappointment around the economic data, there was enough of a trigger for some investors to take some risk off the table going into the weekend,” he added.

The ongoing conflict in Libya and further sectarian tensions in the Gulf state of Bahrain fueled U.S. benchmark crude to a 2 1/2-year high around $104 a barrel, while European benchmark Brent crude also rose to around $116/bbl.

The VDAX-NEW volatility index (.V1XI: Quote, Profile, Research), one of Europe’s main barometers of investor anxiety, ended up 0.4 percent.

Three weeks of investor concern about developments in the Middle East and a near 14 percent rise in Brent crude had, however, resulted in “only minor signs of panic” in the stock and index options market, said Deutsche Bank analysts.

“We still see signs of complacency in equity-implied volatility, and even with the recent uptick, it remains quite low in absolute terms and thus attractive for directional investors looking to protect long portfolios in the face of potential ongoing macro uncertainties,” they said in a note.


Also on the downside on Friday was French electronics firm Legrand (LEGD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), down 5.2 percent after two key shareholders announced plans to offload a stake in the firm, and Danish shipping group A.P Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO: Quote, Profile, Research), which fell 2.6 percent on a report of falling freight rates.

In spite of the last two weeks of falls, however, technicals suggest the sell-off could be short term in nature.

Among blue chips, technicals suggest further upside potential over the next two months, said Philippe Delabarre, technical analyst at Trading Central, who has a first target at 3,078 points, followed by 3,520, and with a stop-loss at 2,890.

Supportive elements included a “bullish continuation pattern in symmetrical triangle,” a recent bounce off a key declining trendline and the 50-day simple moving average.

The Euro STOXX 50 (.STOXX50E: Quote, Profile, Research) ended the day down 0.7 percent at 2,949.18 points.

Around Europe, UK’s FTSE 100 index (.FTSE: Quote, Profile, Research) ended down 0.2 percent, Germany’s DAX index (.GDAXI: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 0.7 percent, and France’s CAC 40 (.FCHI: Quote, Profile, Research) ended 1 percent lower.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop; Editing by Will Waterman)