LONDON -- European equity exchanges have given back gains made at Tuesday's open, as weak demand at the Spanish bond auction renewed fears surrounding the European sovereign-debt crisis. The EURO STOXX 50 has been setting the trend, trading around 0.2% lower, while OMX Stockholm has been leading losses, holding 0.7% lower.
News that Cyprus has become the fifth eurozone country to seek a bailout came as no surprise to the markets today, nor did the news that Moody's downgraded the credit rating of 28 Spanish banks Monday night; neither had much impact on the majority of stocks.
The Moody's downgrade is, however, putting the banking sector under pressure in Spain, with Bankia and CaixaBank leading losses, down 4.2% and 1.3%, respectively. That said, one notable exception is Banco Santander (NYSE: SAN ) , which has been holding on to 2% gains today despite coming under the knife of Moody's.
Elsewhere, banks have been making some headway for the most part as traders bargain-hunt after the recent sell-off in the sector, with dip-buying pushing Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB ) to modest gains of about 0.5%.
It is the major utility firms that have been seeing the most strength in Europe this morning, however, boosted after Bank of America Merrill Lynch produced a positive trading note on the sector. Germany's E.ON (OTC: EONGY), France's GDF Suez, and Italy's Enel (OTC: ENLAY) are all outperforming after direct price upgrades by Bank of America, seeing about 2% gains apiece on their respective exchanges.
Data by German market research group GfK has been helping the country's retail sector by showing that consumer sentiment is set to rise in July from an already elevated level. But it is the Swiss recruiter Adecco that has been seeing some of the largest gains across Europe, up around 3.2% after announcing it plans a 400 million euro buyback.
On a more negative note, a report by AlixPartners suggesting that U.S. auto sales growth is likely to slow through at least 2016 has added to an already uncertain future for European carmakers, with BMW and Volkswagen seeing some of the worst performance on the EURO STOXX 50, down 2.5% each in European trade.
In Paris, meanwhile, Vivendi is under pressure, down 1.5% following a decision by a Manhattan federal court yesterday imposing a fine of $956 million, upholding Liberty Media's (Nasdaq: LMCA ) claim that Vivendi misled it about a liquidity crisis in the company to artificially raise its share price for Liberty's 2001 acquisition of USA Networks. Vivendi has said it will appeal the verdict.
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