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24 Mar 2021 | 11:33

Europe midday: Lockdowns, vaccine row overshadow eurozone PMIs

(Sharecast News) - New lockdowns in Europe and a dispute over the Covid-19 supplies between the European Union and AstraZeneca offset positive euro zone business survey readings on Wednesday. The benchmark pan-European Stoxx 600 index was down 0.21% at midday, having been 0.7% lower at the opening after investors on Wall Street were unsettled by the possibility of tax rises to fund the large US stimulus package agreed this month.

Euro zone stocks pared back losses after the IHS Markit flash composite PMI moved above the crucial 50 mark, which indicates growth, to 52.5 this month compared to February's 48.8.

As Germany, France and Italy extended lockdown measures to fend off the third wave of the coronavirus, the EU was preparing to extend vaccine export curbs to Britain and other areas with much higher vaccination rates.

"The extended lockdown in Germany, and (UK Prime Minister) Boris Johnson's claim he has 'no doubt' that the third wave will hit British shores, has kept the markets, if not panicked, then in a state of quiet concern," said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

In equity news, shares in Italian defence and aerospace group Leonardo fell after the company postponed the initial public offering of its U.S. electronics unit DRS , saying adverse market conditions did not allow for an adequate valuation.

Stock in duty-free retailer Dufry fell 7.44% after completed an offering of CHF500m ($534m) in convertible bonds as it seeks to strengthen its financial position and flexibility.

Cineworld shares continued to fall on worries that movie lovers may have become accustomed to streaming movies at home.

Chipmakers, including ASM International, ASML and BE Semiconductor, were the top gainers, after US firm Intel announced a $20bn plan to expand its advanced chip manufacturing capacity.

French supermarket retailer Carrefour edged up 0.9% after saying it had agreed to buy Brazil's third biggest food retailer Grupo BIG in a deal that values it at $1.3 billion.

Halma shares rose as the company said annual profit would beat expectations as revenue continued to improve and rose in all its major regions.

The safety and protection company said adjusted pre-tax profit for the year to the end of March would be similar to a year earlier - up from previous guidance for a decline of about 5%. This includes a small adverse effect from movements in exchange rates.

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