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PARIS: European shares hit two-month lows on Monday, led by sectors including travel and leisure and technology as a mix of worries over prolonged COVID-19 curbs in China and surging bond yields fuelled selling pressure.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index shed 2.9% to touch its lowest since March 8, with travel and leisure stocks falling 6.0%.

Tech stocks dropped 5.0% to November 2020 lows as US and European government bond yields surged to multi-year highs on bets for faster interest rate hikes aimed at taming a surge in inflation.

Hawkish policymaker Robert Holzmann said over the weekend the European Central Bank should hike interest rates as many as three times this year to combat inflation.

Miners were also afflicted, falling 4.4% as Chinese iron ore futures plunged as much as 7% on concerns about demand in the world’s second-largest economy after data showed April export growth slowed to single digits.

The benchmark STOXX 600 has shed over 5% so far in May, as China’s COVID curbs, aggressive monetary policy tightening and the Ukraine war stoke concerns of a global economic slowdown. The index is down 15.6% since hitting an all-time high in January.

Investors also awaited inflation readings from the United States in the week, with Wall Street’s S&P 500 index and Dow Jones hitting fresh 2022 lows on Monday.

“With a fresh set of tasty inflation numbers due out from a whole host of countries this week, including the US, investors are still very much in the sell camp,” said Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell.

“Talk of recession is rife as markets really begin to price in a series of interest rate rises as central banks remain under pressure to help people out of the cost-of-living crisis they’ve found themselves slap bang in the middle of.” Adding to the gloom, investor morale in the euro zone fell in May to its lowest level since June 2020, as the impact of the war in Ukraine on Europe’s largest economy becomes increasingly clear.

“The positive effects of the good Q1 reporting season and activity reopenings could be short-lived,” Michele Morganti, senior equity strategist at Generali Investments said in a note.

Of the nearly 60% of European companies that have reported results so far, 72% have topped analysts’ profit estimates, as per Refintiv IBES data. In a typical quarter, 52% beat estimates.

Dutch postal firm PostNL slumped 12.9% after it cut its full-year forecast.

BBVA gained 0.7% after Deutsche Bank upgraded the stock to “buy”.

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