Europe Markets: European stocks hurt as oil shares are pulled lower

LONDON (MarketWatch) — European stocks fell Thursday, with oil producers the standout decliners as crude prices extended losses to hit six-year lows, as investors assessed earnings from companies across the region.

The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, -0.35% fell 0.7% to 366.48, with the oil and gas group losing nearly 3% SXEP, -2.36%  as U.S. oil futures CLH5, +0.40%  fell to their worst level since March 2009, with a slide spurred Wednesday after a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. crude supplies. Brent crude-oil prices LCOH5, +1.01% were slightly lower Thursday after losing 2.3% in the previous session.

In the group, oil and gas services company Petrofac Ltd. PFC, -4.24%  fell 4.3%, British oil major BP PLC BP., -2.48% fell 2.9%, and Portugal’s Galp Energia SGPS GALP, -2.54%  gave up 2.8%.

Shares of oil major Royal Dutch Shell PLC RDS.B, -3.91% RDSB, -4.05% fell 4%. Shell posted a rise in fourth-quarter profit on a current cost-of-supplies basis — a metric similar to the net profit reported by U.S. oil companies — in the face of falling oil prices. That profit rose to $ 4.2 billion, compared with $ 2.2 billion in the same period last year. But Shell also said plans to reduce capital expenditure by about $ 15 billion over the next three years.

Shell shares weighed heavily on the U.K.’s FTSE 100 UKX, -0.71% which fell 1.1% to 6,751.13.

France’s CAC 40 PX1, -0.16% fell 0.7% to 4,579.23, led by a 1.8% drop in oil firm Total SA FP, -1.40%

Germany’s DAX DAX, -0.31%  was down 0.7% to 10,635.45, holding to losses after data showed German unemployment fell to 6.5% in January, in line with expectations. But shares of Deutsche Bank DBK, +2.45%  rose 1.3% after the bank unexpectedly swung to quarterly profit.

In other European moves, Greece’s Athex Composite GD, +2.96%  gained 1.4% to 721.15 following Wednesday’s drop to its lowest level in two years. In the fixed-income space, Greek borrowing costs continue to surge, with the yield on the 10-year government bond spiking up above 11%, according to Tradeweb. The yield on the 5-year bond soared 129 basis points to 14.65%.

Russia’s Micex XX:MCX  was up 0.6%. But shares of Gazprom RU:GAZP  slipped 0.1% after the Russian state-controlled oil company logged a 62% drop in third-quarter profit, hurt by the tumble in the ruble and a lack of deliveries to key customer Ukraine.

The ruble USDRUB, +1.46% meanwhile, fell against the dollar in the wake of talk about further sanctions against Russia from Western nations. The dollar was up 1.6% at 68.937 rubles. – Top Stories

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