Le Pen euro pledge weighs on markets

European stocks drifted lower on Monday as investors turned cautious on the region’s assets, including bonds and the euro, as their focus shifted to potential political risks.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.7pc at the close, with 18 of 19 sectors lower. The benchmark index, which has moved mostly sideways this year, is up just 0.05pc in 2017, lagging a 2.4pc gain in the S&P 500 Index.

In Dublin, the Iseq index fell 1.11pc to 6,438.62. Ryanair was down after reporting a drop in profits on the back of a tougher operating environment, falling 3.75pc by late afternoon to €14.2150 a share.

The softer tone generally reflected nervousness, including around prospective French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who unveiled a manifesto pledge to take the country out of the euro should she win. The Euro Stoxx 50, a gauge of euro-area shares, slid 1.1pc, crossing below its 50-day moving average for the first time since early December.

On the bond market, the yield spread between France and Germany’s 10-year bonds widened to its greatest since 2012.

In Italy, where equity markets are seen as among the most risky in Europe due mostly to its fragile banking sector, stocks underperformed.

The FTSE MIB fell 2.2pc. France’s CAC 40 index dropped 1pc in its largest decline in a week.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the euro-region economy and inflation still aren’t strong enough to allow for a withdrawal of monetary stimulus, in testimony at the European Parliament.

Shares in car manufacturers across Europe underperformed, with the sector index falling 1.4pc after Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists downgraded the sector, noting structural challenges.
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