European stocks sink as Trump fuels grim mood

(Reuters) - European shares were on course for their worst day in more than a month on Wednesday, as an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump and worsening rhetoric on U.S.-China trade relations fanned fears about global economic growth.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work at Frankfurt's stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, February 6, 2018. Picture taken with a fisheye lens. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

Trade-sensitive tech stocks .SX8P fell 2%, driving a more than 1% fall in the pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX, after Trump issued a stinging rebuke to China's trade practices in a speech to the United Nations.

The fallout of the speech, given late in the European session on Tuesday, rippled through Wall Street and other global markets overnight and sent all of Europe’s industrial sectors into the red in the first hour of trading.

Semiconductor shares including AMS AMS.S and ASM International ASMI.AS were among the top losers while export-reliant Germany .GDAXI slipped 1%, putting the STOXX overall firmly on course for its first weekly fall since mid August. "Markets may be caught flat-footed by the apparent tone shift (on trade)," said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.

“A prolonged period of trade tensions, with a comprehensive U.S.-China trade deal is unlikely before the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.”

Equity markets have been rankled by a slew of poor euro zone economic and political news in the past week.

Data on Monday showed business growth had stalled across the currency bloc, and while a UK Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday may help head off a no-deal Brexit it was also likely further to delay the country’s tortured European Union exit process.

Weak PMI surveys, recent profit warnings from European companies and the political uncertainty on the back of the Trump impeachment probe were leading markets to take a pause, said Will James, senior investment director for European equities at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

Germany's Pfeiffer Vacuum PV.DE plunged 14%, as it became the latest European industrial machinery company to cut guidance, citing order delays.

German truck supplier SAF Holland SFQN.DE also cut its 2019 outlook for the second time this year on Tuesday, blaming a deterioration of economic conditions, particularly in Europe, China and India.

“The issue at the moment is - for some of the more cyclical sectors - the market expectations (for company earnings) are not particularly high. It will be much more to do with the outlook statements,” James said.

Shares in France's EDF EDF.PA dropped 6.1%, to the bottom of the STOXX 600, after the state-controlled power group raised its cost estimate for the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Britain.

In a bright spot, British supermarket group Sainsbury's SBRY.L gained 2.6% after it announced a new plan to cut costs, speed up debt reduction and shake up its store estate and financial services division.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Patrick Graham