© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, December 20, 2022. REUTERS/Staff
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By Bansari Mayur Kamdar
(Reuters) -European shares inched lower on Thursday, in their penultimate session of 2022, as soaring COVID cases in China dampened risk appetite across global markets.
The region-wide STOXX 600 edged 0.2% down. For the year so far, it has fallen 12.5%.
After a brief jump this week, global markets are nervous about Beijing’s move to further relax COVID curbs, as surging infections dimmed hopes of a swift recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.
The scale of the outbreak and doubts over official data prompted the United States, India, Italy, Taiwan and Japan to impose new travel rules on Chinese visitors. The European Union’s Health Security Committee called an urgent meeting in Brussels to coordinate the bloc’s response.
China-exposed luxury firms such as Cartier-owner Richemont and French group Kering (EPA:PRTP) fell 0.9% and 0.3%, respectively.
Energy stocks dipped 0.8% and miners fell 0.4%, tracking weakness in crude and base metal prices on concerns of demand recovery in top consumer China.
Consumer staples such as Diageo (LON:DGE) and Unilever (L:ULVR) fell 0.8% each.
“Not sure consumers in Europe have yet felt the full impact of inflation, so there could be more pain to come, and it may be harder for big brands to keep putting through price rises,” said Derren Nathan, head of equity research at Hargreaves Lansdown.
In Spain, data showed retail sales fell 0.6% in November from a year earlier, after rising 1.0% in October. Spanish stocks dipped 0.3%.
In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, exporters have modest hopes for next year, anticipating problems at major customers in China because of climbing COVID cases and rising prices making U.S. buyers cautious, the Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA) said.
Miner Antofagasta (LON:ANTO) slid 1.3% on its Los Pelambres operation in Chile’s Coquimbo region being hit by a blockade.
Ferrexpo fell 0.7% on the detention of its controlling shareholder, billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago, by French authorities. The iron pellet producer said the detention was unrelated to matters at the company.
Report on Wednesday saying that imported baby formula would be subject to tariffs again after the expiration of exemptions weighed on companies such as Nestle SA (SIX:NESN) and Reckitt Benckiser that shipped millions of cans of emergency supplies. Both their shares fell nearly 1%.
Meanwhile, the rate-sensitive tech sector rose helped by a fall in euro zone government bond yields.