Europe’s STOXX 600 index fell on Wednesday led by declines in commodity stocks after lacklustre trade data from China added to worries about a global economic slowdown, although utility stocks jumped on a report of possible regulatory change.
Miners exposed to China lost 2.3%, while the European oil & gas index dropped 3.1% tracking a fall in metal and crude prices.
Both sector indexes led declines in the benchmark STOXX 600 index, which ended 0.6% lower after notching marginal gains in the previous session.
Data from China showed exports and imports had slowed in August with growth largely missing forecasts as sky-high inflation hindered overseas demand and new COVID-19 curbs and heatwaves disrupted output.
“The slowdown in both exports and imports demonstrates the fragility of the global economy and the scale of the shock that COVID has precipitated,” Danni Hewson, AJ Bell financial analyst, wrote in a note.
European markets started the month on a lacklustre note after a stoppage of gas flow through a major pipeline from Russia sparked worries about energy rationing this winter and a recession in the bloc.
The European Union proposed a price cap on Russian gas on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin threatened to cut off all energy supplies if it took such a step, and is also planning a ceiling on the price paid for electricity from generators that do not run on gas.
Utility stocks jumped on this news, with shares of EDP, SSE, Engie, RWE and Verbund up between 3.4% and 13.3%.
“As politicians scramble to put sticking plasters on what looks set to be a longer term energy crisis, the outlook for the global economy has darkened again, sending fresh jitters through financial markets,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
Also on the radar is a European Central Bank policy meeting on Thursday where it is widely expected to raise lending rates by 75 basis points to curb record high inflation in the bloc.
Shares in Ubisoft tumbled 17.2% to the bottom of the STOXX 600, after it announced a deal that will see China’s Tencent Holdings raise its stake in the company, a move seen as a signal that a full sale of the French game maker is now very unlikely.
H&M slipped 2.3% after JP Morgan downgraded the Swedish fashion retailer’s stock to “underweight” from “neutral”.