Europe stocks ease from record highs as tobacco firms weigh

(Reuters) -European shares pulled back on Tuesday after hitting record highs a day earlier, as tobacco companies weighed on UK stocks and many regional indexes edged off pre-pandemic highs.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Staff

British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands and Swedish Match fell between 2.5% and 6% following a report the Biden administration was considering requiring tobacco companies to lower the nicotine levels in all cigarettes sold in the United States.

BAT shares were on course to record their biggest percentage drop since March 2020.

UK’s blue-chip FTSE 100 fell 0.4%, Germany’s DAX was down 0.1% and France’s CAC 40 declined 0.7%.

The pan-regional STOXX 600 index dropped 0.5%. The benchmark has hit a series of all-time highs this month after having climbed more than 10% so far in 2021, broadly in line with New York’s S&P 500.

“On absolute terms, it’s difficult to make the case that markets are cheap,” said Jason Collins, global head of equities at SEI. “But relatively speaking, European equities offer much better value than the United States.

After bumper earnings reports from U.S. banks last week, investors are awaiting results from mega-cap technology firms, that helped a strong U.S. market recovery last year, but have lagged recently.

In Europe, profits for STOXX 600 companies are expected to jump more than 55% in the first quarter, according to Refinitiv IBES data, with much of the support coming from consumer cyclical and industrial companies.

Automakers were the only gainers in Europe as BMW’s first-quarter earnings bounced back more strongly than expected, helped by higher prices and strong Chinese demand.

Travel & leisure, banks and insurers fell after strong gains this year.

Investors also looked past data that showed Britain’s unemployment rate unexpectedly fell for a second month in a row to 4.9% in the December to February period, during which most of the country was under a strict COVID-19 lockdown.

French food group Danone slipped 2.8% after reporting a 3.3% fall in first-quarter sales as lockdowns continued to dent its bottled water and baby food sales.

Swedish medical gear maker Getinge jumped 5.6% after it posted a rise in quarterly core profit.

Swiss construction chemicals maker Sika rose 2% after it hiked its sales outlook for 2021.

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