(RTTNews) - European stocks were moving lower on Friday as global coronavirus cases topped one million and grim eurozone purchasing manager data rekindled recession concerns.
The IHS Markit eurozone services purchasing managers index slumped to a reading of 26.4 in March from 52.6 in February, the worst-ever reading in the history of the series, as the covid-19 pandemic and associated measures taken to contain the outbreak through Europe weighed heavily on business performance.
A survey of business leaders showed that U.K. manufacturing output and new orders have declined at the fastest rate in eight years in March, due to the pandemic.
The pan European Stoxx 600 slid 0.9 percent to 309.31 after rising 0.4 percent on Thursday. The German DAX gave up 0.7 percent, France's CAC 40 index declined 1.2 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 was down 1.3 percent.
Insurer Aviva fell 4.6 percent, Prudential slumped 6 percent and Legal & General Group lost as much as 10 percent after the EU regulator asked insurers and reinsurers to temporarily suspend dividends and share buybacks.
Zurich Insurance Group fell over 9 percent and Munich Re tumbled 3.2 percent. Lender BNP Paribas lost about 5 percent after cancelling its 2019 dividend. Banco Santander lost 3.3 percent after scrapping its final dividend for 2019.
Information services provider Ascential declined 7.4 percent after scrapping its 2019 dividend and saying it was commercially not viable to run the Cannes Lions Festival this year.
Sainsbury rose over 1 percent. The supermarket chain said it will start to remove the customer purchasing limits from Sunday. Previously, the retailer imposed the limits as a response to increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
BAE Systems was down 2.6 percent. The defense firm will defer its dividend as it sees significant disruptions from the virus outbreak.
Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB surged 4.3 percent. The company reported that its first-quarter profit after tax more than doubled to 1.92 billion Swedish kronor from last year's 803 million kronor.
Looking ahead, the company said the second quarter will naturally be very negatively impacted by the corona situation and will therefore be loss-making.
Energy stocks such as BP Plc and Total SA were moving lower despite oil extending overnight gains in choppy trade on hopes for a Saudi-Russia deal that U.S. President Donald Trump said he had brokered.
Sanofi advanced 3.1 percent. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Sanofi have announced detailed positive results from a pivotal Phase 3 trial evaluating Dupixent (dupilumab).
Deutsche EuroShop AG fell over 1 percent. The real estate investment company withdrew its outlook for 2020 and said it is not possible to estimate the further course of events or economic impact for 2020.
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