Commodity-linked stocks sent European shares to two-week lows on Tuesday in a choppy start to the session, as uncertainty hung over the looming first round of France’s presidential election. The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.8 percent, while Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 1 percent. France’s CAC dropped 1 percent.
The basic resources sector was the biggest sectoral faller, down 2.4 percent, with analysts saying a slump in iron ore prices was weighing on miners. Shares in steel miner ArcelorMittal, Anglo American and BHP Billiton fell 3.2 to 5.6 percent. Oil & gas shares also fell 1.5 percent as the price of oil edged down following an expected climb in U.S. output. Oil firms Statoil and BP both declined more than 2.7 percent.
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Europe’s VSTOXX volatility index hit its highest level since December 2016 ahead of the first round of the French presidential elections, and amid rising geopolitical tensions after North Korea’s failed missile test over the weekend.
“It’s not a coincidence that the French CAC index was one of the biggest fallers today, because … French election risk is coming to the fore,” Jasper Lawler, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, said.
“The polls are neck-and-neck at the moment, so it seems a good chance that a political outsider is going to win.”
A poll released by Ifop-Fiducial saw centrist Emmanuel Macron leading the first round of the French election with 23 percent, followed closely by far-right Marine Le Pen with 22 percent and far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon with 19.5 percent.
Jeweler Pandora was the worst performing stock on the STOXX 600, down over 8 percent at its lowest level since August 2015 after Nordic broker Carnegie downgraded the stock to “hold” from “buy”.
DONG Energy was also on the backfoot after Citigroup cut its rating to “neutral”, sending it 3.6 percent lower.
“Following +11% share price performance over the past 9m, disappointing and potentially value destructive German offshore wind auction price, as well as the widely expected possible further placing of 7% of DONG Energy share in May by New Energy, we downgrade DONG Energy to Neutral,” Jenny Ping, an analyst at Citigroup, said in a note.
Among risers, biotech firm Galapagos jumped 3.3 percent after raising $338 million gross proceeds in a U.S. public offering, while Germany’s Uniper gained 2.3 percent after SocGen raised its rating on the stock to “buy” from “hold”.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Vikram Subhedar and Andrew Heavens)