Oil and gas companies stood out in a gloomy session for European stock markets on Monday as an attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities thrust crude prices higher, while heightening geopolitical concerns among investors. The oil & gas index surged 2.8% to log its biggest percentage gain since January 2019, after the weekend's attack on the world's largest crude exporter disrupted more than 5% of global oil supply.
Oil prices soared as much as 20%, with Brent crude posting its biggest intraday gain since the 1990-1991 Gulf crisis before easing off its peaks. That helped energy-heavy Norwegian stocks jump 1.65%, boosted by Equinor and Aker BP, the top gainer on STOXX 600.
Oil majors BP, Shell and Total jumped between 2.5% and 4%, while UK and Irish-based explorer Tullow Oil gained 8.4% after the firm said it plans to drill three or more exploration wells in Guyana. Most other major European sectoral indexes fell, with shares in Airbus and French luxury goods exporters sliding as the European Union acknowledged it may face U.S. tariffs in a long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies.
Airbus shares dropped 3.4%, while LVMH, Christian Dior and Hermes fell between 2.8% and 4.5%. "Despite a strong lift for oil stocks, the larger, more liquid, higher-capitalisation indices in western Europe with the strongest global links were all weak," City Index's Ken Odeluga wrote in a note.
"It looks like investors assess the situation as having potential to further weigh on a geopolitical landscape already beset by the slowing global economy, Brexit and trade." The Iran-aligned Houthi group that controls Yemen's capital claimed responsibility for the attack, although a Saudi-led coalition said on Monday the attacks were carried out with Iranian weapons.
President Donald Trump said Washington was "locked and loaded" to hit back. Adding to some weak indicators from China last week, industrial production in the world's second largest economy grew at its weakest pace in 17-1/2 years in August.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended down 0.6%, ending a four-day winning streak, while trade-sensitive German shares dropped 0.7%. The weekend's events halted a march higher in European stocks, which logged their fourth week of gains on Friday as investors moved back into cyclical sectors amid signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks.
After the European Central Bank cut rates deeper into negative territory last week and relaunched bond purchases with no scheduled end-date, all eyes are now on the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting this week. The central bank is widely expected to ease interest rates and signal further moves.
Travel and leisure stocks dropped 0.6%, dragged down by shares of airlines Ryanair Holdings, Air France KLM SA and EasyJet PLC on worries of higher fuel costs hurting profits. Shares in Italian infrastructure group Atlantia slid another 8% after Italy's tax police said they had found evidence that safety reports for some viaducts operated by Atlantia's motorway unit had been falsified or information omitted.
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