May 2 (Reuters) – Europe’s STOXX 600 index closed at its lowest level in nearly a month on Tuesday at the beginning of a shortened week packed with high-profile central bank events as energy stocks slumped and Pearson led falls among media companies.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 1.2%, closing at its worst level since early April.
Oil and gas shares plunged 4.5%, recording their lowest close in over one month, tracking oil prices lower on worries about a US bond default, weak economic data from China, and expectations the US and Europe will raise interest rates again this week.
BP Plc (BP) dropped 8.6%, after the company pared a share buyback plan but made a USD 5-billion profit in the first quarter of 2023.
Investors were also refraining from risk-taking ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday, which is likely to push the US central bank’s benchmark overnight interest rate to its highest level in nearly 16 years.
“Nerves are rising about the debt ceiling standoff in the US, with the prospect that a default could shake the global economy, just as worries about further banking repercussions have been calmed for now,” said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown.
Markets also keenly awaited a rate decision by the European Central Bank (ECB) on Thursday, where it is widely seen hiking by 25 basis points. Derivatives markets also see rates peaking at around 3.7% in November.
Boosting the case for a smaller interest-rate increase, data showed eurozone banks are turning off the credit taps and a key gauge of inflation is finally falling.
“The data are finally in, and they suggest the ECB can slow down the pace of tightening from 50 to 25bps. That said, this does not need to be a dovish 25bp hike,” said Davide Oneglia, senior economist at TS Lombard.
“The bigger question remains where the ECB will stop. The answer depends mostly on a mid-year US recession materializing and on the Fed response to it.”
European media stocks shed 4.2%, clocking their worst session since late January 2022 after online education firm Pearson Plc (PSON) tumbled 15.0% following US rival Chegg’s (CHGG) forecast of an unexpected decline in revenue as students begin to use ChatGPT.
HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) gained 3.5% on better-than-expected quarterly profit.
Logitech (LOGN) climbed 7.0% to the top of the STOXX 600 index after the computer peripherals maker reported better-than-expected quarterly results.
(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyl in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shubham Batra; Editing by Varun H K, Rashmi Aich, Alexandra Hudson)