* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 2.8 percent
* BHP takes $7.2 bln charge on U.S. assets
* Oils down as crude drops below $30
* Syngenta up on M&A hopes
(Adds closing prices)
By Danilo Masoni and Alistair Smout
MILAN/LONDON, Jan 15 European shares ended on
Friday at their lowest since mid-December 2014, hit by losses in
commodity-related stocks as BHP Billiton announced a major
writedown and oil fell below $30 a barrel.
Some investors said stocks were deeply oversold and flagged
hopes of more central bank intervention to help reverse the
trend after three straight weeks of losses.
BHP Billiton shed 6.4 percent, the top faller on the
pan-European FTSEurofirst 300, after saying it would
write down the value of its U.S. shale assets by $7.2 billion.
That cemented expectations the company will be forced to cut its
dividend for the first time in more than 25 years.
The STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index was down
6.3 percent, with Rio Tinto, Glencore and
Antofagasta also among top fallers.
All four stocks also suffered from target price cuts by
Japanese bank Nomura. Copper has hit a new 6-1/2 year low this
week and was set for its second straight weekly loss.
The oil and gas sector was also under pressure, down
3.8 percent. Brent and U.S. crude both fell below $30 a barrel,
as markets braced for more oil supply from Iran.
"Stocks are being driven by oil, and given that the Iranian
sanctions are due to be lifted, that's causing even more
nervousness about this glut of oil that we have," said Zeg
Choudhry, managing director of LONTRAD.
Concerns over commodities and Chinese growth have marked a
rocky start to the year for global markets. Chinese shares
closed at their lowest level since December 2014, rocked
again by falling oil.
The FTSEurofirst 300 ended down 2.8 percent at 1,297.1
points, making its third straight weekly loss. It fell 6.7
percent last week when China allowed its currency to devalue.
Enrico Vaccari, fund manager at Italy's Consultinvest, said
investors were testing central banks to see whether they had
ammunition left to prop up markets and the economy.
"There is a symbolic poker match between the market and
central banks. I don't think China and oil are the real problem
here," he said "The market is trying to force the hand of
central banks in the hope they unleash more stimulus. So far
there has been no answer but at some point it will arrive."
The European Central Bank holds its next policy meeting on
Among other fallers, Brenntag dropped 5.9 percent
after the chemicals firm was cut to "hold" from "buy" by
The top riser was Syngenta, up 1.8 percent,
following a Bloomberg report saying its board had voted in
favour of pursuing advanced takeover talks with ChemChina.
H&M was up 0.6 percent after it posted a rise in
sales in December which beat forecasts.
Today's European research round-up
(Editing by Toby Chopra)