European shares end lower for the month amid record high inflation

By Anisha Sircar and Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) -European shares slipped on Wednesday, clocking declines for the month as data showed euro zone inflation in August hit another record high, while energy concerns intensified after Russia began halting gas flows to Germany via a key supply route. The continent-wide STOXX 600 fell 1.1% to new six-week lows, carrying its losing streak to the fourth straight day. Energy stocks tumbled 2.6%, leading losses as oil prices continued to slide on recession fears. [O/R]

The benchmark STOXX 600 index clocked a monthly fall of 5.1% on fears of hawkish central bank policies and escalating risks of recession and energy rationing in the region.

Euro zone inflation rose to another record high of 9.1% this month from 8.9% a month earlier, beating expectations and staying well clear of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) 2% target. The euro zone stocks index fell 1.0% to hover near six-week lows.

“This is yet another eye-watering number, showing consumers were feeling the pain even before Russia tightened its grip on its energy market,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“These readings will add fuel to the fire of worries that ECB policymakers will implement a big hike in September, despite uncertainty ahead in terms of energy security.”

A Reuters report Friday said some ECB policymakers want to discuss a 75 basis points rate hike next month, even if recession risks loom, as the inflation outlook deteriorates.

Adding to the recession concerns, Russia halted gas supplies via Europe’s key supply route Nord Stream 1, as the pipeline’s operator confirmed no gas was flowing on Wednesday morning.

“Gas prices and European sentiment are about to face a major stress test as the Nord Stream pipeline gets shut for maintenance today for three days,” strategists at ING said in a client note.

However, Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers, said with incoming winter and stoppage of Russia’s supply into Europe, gas and energy companies may outperform in the upcoming days despite broad-based inflation. Among individual stocks, Italian bank UniCredit rose 4.5% after saying the ECB had authorised a second share buyback instalment worth up to 1 billion euros ($1 billion). Dormakaba Holding declined 3.0% after the Swiss security group forecast organic growth slightly above its target range, but added that the outlook applied only to the first half of the 2022/23 financial year due to rising macroeconomic challenges.

Italy’s Eni fell 3.5% after saying it would receive lower volumes of gas from Russia’s Gazprom.

In a sign that investors were bracing for a period of higher inflation and interest rates, German borrowing costs were set to end August with their biggest monthly surge in over 30 years. [GVD/EUR]

(Reporting by Anisha Sircar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Additonal reporting by Shashwat Chauhan; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Jane Merriman and Jonathan Oatis)