By Sruthi Shankar and Ambar Warrick
(Reuters) -European stocks closed lower on Friday, down more than 1% this week as investors weighed risks from tighter monetary policies after the European Central Bank signalled a slowdown of pandemic-era bond purchases.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 0.3% and declined for four of five sessions this week as worries persisted about a slowing global economic recovery.
Still, defensive sectors such as healthcare and real estate notched the biggest weekly declines, as investors positioned for a possible pickup in economic growth.
News of a call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden offered some relief to battered Asian stocks, particularly tech companies that have come under heightened regulatory scrutiny in Beijing.
Tech stocks in Europe rose 0.7%, while luxury stocks got a boost as France’s LVMH rose 0.8% after HSBC recommended buying the stock.
China-exposed miners were the biggest gainers on the day, up 1.1%
European stocks found support after the ECB stressed it was not about to close the money taps despite projecting higher growth and inflation for the euro zone.
“The outcome of the meeting is likely to be supportive in the short term,” Unicredit analysts said.
“But even if ECB President Christine Lagarde was cautious in highlighting that the decision was a just a recalibration, a “real” tapering is probably coming next year, provided that economic conditions remain good enough,” they added.
European shares have hovered below their mid-August record highs on the back of strong earnings and recovery prospects, but major money houses are sceptical of further gains, particularly in U.S. stock markets that is home to high-growth companies.
Data showed Britain’s economy unexpectedly slowed to a crawl in July as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spread rapidly.
Among other stocks, Fresenius Medical Care dropped 4.8% after J.P.Morgan downgraded the stock to “underweight”.
French energy storage group Rubis fell 8.0% and was the biggest decliner on the STOXX 600 after it flagged difficulties in its Caribbean business.
BioNTech rose 2.5% after two executives at the German biotech firm told Der Spiegel the company is set to request approval across the globe for use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as five.
(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and David Gregorio)