Europe midday: Stocks mixed amid weakness in Oil&Gas

16 April 2018

(ShareCast News) - Stocks are trading on a mixed note, amid a slump in oil prices after the missile strikes against Syria's chemical weapons programme failed to spark an escalation in tensions.
At the weekend, the US, UK and France launched over 100 missiles against three target areas in around the cities of Damascus and Homs in what was labelled as a proportional and very targeted attack.

Significantly, although the US and its allies left the door open to further actions against the government in Damascus should it use chemical weapons again, in their comments top officials from both sides of the Pond stressed that the end-goal was neither regime change nor to influence the 'balance of forces' on the ground.

Against that backdrop, as of 1303 BST the benchmark Stoxx 600 was drifting lower by 0.25% or 0.94 points to 378.26, with the Dax 30 near its session lows, trading down by 0.11% or 13.26 points at 12,429.65, while the FTSE Mibtel was up by 0.15% 41.97 points at 23,369.82.

Commenting on the implications for markets of those strikes, Michael Hewson at <em>CMC Markets UK</em> said: "One of the main concerns last week was around the extent of the response by the US backed coalition on President Assad of Syria's forces and any Russian reaction to it.

"The firing of over 100 cruise missiles over the weekend on various targets, with little in the way of casualties, appears to be tempered with relief that while it may reduce the risk of an escalation in the short term, it in no way means that we might not get a counter response further down the line. As such markets here in Europe look set to open cautiously higher this morning after shares traded slightly firmer in Asia."

The price action in other asset classes was mixed but appeared to be 'risk-on' in general, with government bond yields rising as they lost some of their 'safe haven' allure.

Brent crude oil futures meanwhile were lower, as - at least for now - the risk of military action in Syria passed, with the front month contract trading down by 1.21% to $71.71 a barrel on the ICE.

In turn, that was acting as a drag on the Oil&amp;Gas sector, sending the Stoxx 600's sector gauge 0.40% lower to 320.11.

Dollar/yen on the other hand had turned around to edge higher by 0.04% at 107.385.

Further afield, the Russian rouble was recovering from weakness overnight triggered by reports that Washington was set to impose further sanctions in response to Moscow's activities in Syria.

Helping the Russian currency, Reuters was reporting that foreign affairs minister from the European Union were unlikely to join in fresh American sanctions.

No economic data was set for release at the start of the week on the Continent, although traders were keeping an eye out for any headlines from the start of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank's Spring meetings in Washington.

Stateside, retail sales data for the month of March was scheduled for release at 1330 BST, alongside the results of the Empire State manufacturing sector survey.

In corporate news, it was all about merger and acquisitions activity in the UK, amid news that <strong>Shire</strong> had sold its oncology unit top France's <strong>Servier</strong> for $2.4bn.

Another UK outfit, <strong>Whitbread</strong>, figured prominently in Monday's news, with its stock jumping almost 9% - its largest one day gain since September 2009 - after US hedge fund Elliot Advisers disclosed it had amasses a stake in the owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn.

Shares in <strong>Deutsche Bank</strong> were slightly lower on Monday after the group's finance chief told <em>Bloomberg</em> that the European Central Bank had asked the lender to simulate an orderly wind-down of its trading book.