LONDON -- European equity markets were falling for the seventh consecutive day Thursday, as concerns once again surfaced surrounding the prospects for global economic growth. This comes after South Korea lowered interest rates for the first time in three years overnight, while at the same time Australia published weaker-than-expected jobless numbers.
Meanwhile in Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) said that overnight deposits from EU banks fell by more than half yesterday to 324.9 billion euros, after the central bank reduced its deposit rate to zero earlier this week. This is the lowest level of deposits this year, and begins to offer some hope that banks may now start to free up cash on their own lending books.
Some weakness in the Spanish banking sector is causing the country's markets to underperform compared to its European peers, with the IBEX (INDEX: ^IBEX) down 2%.
The weakness in Spanish banks actually comes despite what should be fairly positive news today, after the person who runs the EU committee that prepares euro finance ministers meetings, Thomas Wieser, said there is no expectation that Spanish banks will have an immediate rush to draw upon the 30 billion euros in bailout funds that will become available at the end of the month.
Santander (NYS: SAN) has managed to bring in a slightly better performance than the other banks in Spain, however, down just 1.3% after the company's board approved a 1.5 billion-euro capital release to increase Santander's script dividend program.
Elsewhere, French carmaker Peugeot (NASDAQOTH: PEUGY.PK) is trading near flat after some initial gains today, following from news the company will be closing its Aulnay plant and cutting 6,500 jobs. The move comes as part of a broader restructuring of the company's production base in the country, after it suffered 700 million euros in first-half losses and said it was spending cash at a rate of 200 million euros per month.
On a more positive note, supermarket operator Carrefour (NASDAQOTH: CRRFY.PK) has seen its share price surge almost 7% in Paris, buoyed after it reported better-than-expected sales growth, and saying revenue only fell 0.3% to 21.7 billion euros as demand from Europe was "satisfactory."
This comes after the company has lowered its profit outlook five times over the past two years, and after it halted a planned 1.5 billion-euro remodeling of its largest European stores earlier this year.
Also on the up is German software group SAP (NYS: SAP) , which has climbed almost 5% in Frankfurt after announcing second-quarter software license sales, an indicator of future revenue streams, increased 19% to 1.06 billion euros -- much higher than analyst estimates. The company also reported that it projects 15%-20% growth in its latest results, while noting operating profit rose 15% to 1.17 billion euros SAP's full earnings will be released later this month.
As always, this morning's European news saw some winners and losers -- and perhaps some European buying opportunities. Indeed, legendary investor Warren Buffett has recently spent more than $1 billion buying the stock of a prominent European large cap.
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