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Pharma nerves hit European stocks, dollar wobbles

By Hilary Russ

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Slumping healthcare stocks pulled European markets lower on Thursday after White House candidate Hillary Clinton demanded price cuts on a successful drug, while many investors awaited headlines from a big gathering of central bankers.

Healthcare stocks were a major weight on the FTSE 100, with Hikma <HIK.L>, Shire <SHP.L> and AstraZeneca <AZN.L> falling between 1.4 percent to 3.5 percent. London's FTSE <.FTSE> closed 0.28 percent lower.

The losses followed Democratic nominee Clinton's call for a lower price for Mylan NV's <MYL.O> allergy drug EpiPen, which has become four times more expensive in the past decade.


"(This) serves to strike fear into the hearts of healthcare groups and their investors everywhere," Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, said in a note.

"The industry (is) ... treading the fine line between balancing the costs of clinical success (and failure) with the economic laws of supply and demand."

Mylan shares, however, were up 0.6 percent, rebounding from steep Wednesday losses. An index of U.S.-listed health shares <.SPXHC> was flat.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 9.93 points, or 0.05 percent, to 18,471.55, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 1.13 points, or 0.05 percent, to 2,176.57 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 6.73 points, or 0.13 percent, to 5,224.43.

In Europe, Frankfurt <.GDAXI> and Paris <.FCHI> lost as much as 1.2 percent in a region-wide slide but pared losses during later trading. [.EU]

The euro rose 0.1 percent against the dollar to $1.1276 <EUR=>. The euro rose despite a weak German IFO survey showing German business morale deteriorated sharply in August as Brexit shock weighed on sentiment.

"Business confidence in Germany has clearly worsened," Ifo head Clemens Fuest said in a statement. "The German economy has fallen into a summer slump."

Wall Street stayed flat to positive as investors waited for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to deliver the keynote speech at a global central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, where Fed chiefs have traditionally signalled the direction of monetary policy.

Yellen may struggle to convince financial markets she can steer a divided U.S. central bank to raise interest rates at least once in 2016 after it started the year with four hikes on its radar.

"There is basically just a bit of risk aversion ahead of Jackson Hole," said CMC Markets senior analyst Michael Hewson. "I think expectations are way too high, though, I don't think Yellen sets as much importance on Jackson Hole as Ben Bernanke did."

The U.S. dollar, which is looking for any signal on whether rates will rise this year, tipped lower to $94.738 against a basket of major currencies <.DXY> and was flat against the yen at 100.49 yen <JPY=>.

Oil prices rebounded from a selloff in the previous session, rising nearly 1 percent before stepping back slightly, on expectations that the dollar would weaken ahead of Yellen's speech.

Crude futures also saw support from players buying on dips and looking for a bottom on speculation that next month's informal meeting between OPEC and other major oil producers could result in production curbs.

Brent crude was last up 0.88 percent, or 43 cents, at $49.49 per barrel. U.S. crude <CLc1> was 0.56 percent, or 26 cents, higher at $47.04.

In Asian equities, Japan's Nikkei <.N225> ended down 0.3 percent following on from Wednesday's modest losses on Wall Street.

U.S. Treasury yields turned flat. Data showed new orders for U.S. manufactured capital goods increased in July for the second straight month.

(Additional reporting by Kit Rees and Alistair Smout in London, Jason Lange and Lindsay Dunsmuir in Washington, Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss, Barani Krishnan and Karen Brettell in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra and Nick Zieminski)