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European shares slide to near 3-month low on rate hike worries


By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) -European shares slid to their lowest level in nearly three months on Thursday, with London stocks falling on uncertainty about the size of the Bank of England’s (BoE) interest rate hike later in the day.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 1.0%, eyeing a fourth straight session of decline, on fears of continued monetary policy tightening by major central banks.

The UK’s FTSE 100 index shed 0.9%.

The BoE is set to raise interest rates for the thirteenth time in a row, a day after inflation data came in higher than expected again, but bets were almost evenly split between a 25-basis-point (bps) and 50-basis-point hike.

“As inflation readings go, it’s a very worrying number. This has raised the stakes to the point the BoE might feel compelled to hike rates by 50 bps later today, and not 25 bps as expected,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

The Swiss National Bank raised its policy interest rate by 25 bps on Thursday as it pressed ahead with its fight against sticky inflation and left the door open for more tightening.

Some European Central Banks’ (ECB) policymakers said on Wednesday that euro zone inflation is stubborn and may require a protracted period of high interest rates to contain, partly due to an exceptionally tight labour market.

Bank stocks tumbled 1.8%, eying its worst session in nearly a month, technology shares dropped 1.1%.

The European auto sector slid 1.5%.

U.S. lawmakers late on Wednesday urged the Federal Trade Commission to finalise new consumer protections for car buyers despite objections from auto dealers who argue the rules would actually raise the cost of buying a car.

Novo Nordisk shares slipped 2.9% as it said the European Union’s drug watchdog last month raised a thyroid cancer safety signal for several of its drugs.

Ocado Group soared 17.4% to the top of the STOXX 600 after The Times reported possible talk of bid interest in the company. A spokesperson for Ocado declined to comment on the rally in shares.

SES SA rose 5.3% after it said it ceased merger talks with Intelsat.

The STOXX 600 is now on track for a lacklustre end to June, losing momentum from the first quarter of the year as high-interest rates catch up, investor preferences move away from value-oriented stocks, and a disappointing China recovery.

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Janane Venkatraman)

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