European Markets Close Lower as Global Rally Loses Steam; Total Falls 1.8% After Earnings

  • The lackluster trade in Europe comes after a global rally on Monday that saw U.S. stocks hit record highs.
  • The February rally appeared to be cooling Tuesday; in the U.S., the S&P 500 pulled back from a record high.
  • Investors continued to monitor earnings; oil major Total reported a massive fall in annual profit Tuesday.

LONDON — European stocks closed slightly lower on Tuesday as the rally that's seen global stocks nudging to record highs appeared to be cooling.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session down by about 0.1%, with most sectors and major bourses finishing in negative territory.

The lackluster trade in Europe comes after a global rally on Monday that saw U.S. stocks hit record highs.

The global MSCI ACWI index inched fractionally higher to touch a fresh all-time record early on Tuesday morning, while most shares in Asia-Pacific eked out gains by Tuesday's close, led by mainland China.

In Europe, the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine rollout continue to dominate headlines and market sentiment. Health experts and government officials were rallying round the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine on Monday after widespread concern following a small-scale trial that showed it offered "minimal protection" against mild disease caused by the South African variant of the virus.

With its vaccination drive falling far behind, the EU has finalized a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for the supply of an additional 300 million doses of their Covid vaccine, a European Commission spokesman told Reuters on Monday.

Earnings remain high on the agenda, with oil major Total reporting a massive fall in annual profit before the bell. Full-year 2020 net profit came in at $4.06 billion, beating expectations of $3.86 billion, from analysts polled by Refinitiv, but reflecting a 66% drop compared with $11.8 billion for the 2019 fiscal year.

Total shares shed 1.8% by the close after inching slightly higher earlier in the session.

Danish hearing aid group Demant saw its stock surge 11.8% to the top of the Stoxx 600 after comfortably beating earnings expectations for the second half of 2020.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, Finnish drugmaker Orion slid 8.8% after missing fourth-quarter earnings expectations.

Austrian chipmaker AMS slipped 7.1% despite recording an 86% jump in 2020 sales, with traders citing profit taking, according to Reuters.

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