* FTSEurofirst 300 index falls 2.1 percent
* Banking sector among top decliners
* Energy shares track weaker oil prices
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - European equities hit a 16-month low on Monday, extending the previous week’s hefty losses, with cyclical sectors such as banking and automobiles bearing the brunt of a broader sell-off.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares fell 2.1 percent to 1,256.30 points by 1004 GMT, after falling down to 1,252.24 points, its lowest level since October 2014.
The STOXX Europe 600 banking index, down 2.6 percent, was among the top decliners. The index is down more than 16 percent so far this year on concerns about banks’ earnings and profitability in a negative rate environment.
The cost of insuring the European financial sector’s senior debt against default also climbed to its highest level since late 2013.
Shares in Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, HSBC and BNP Paribas fell 3.2 to 5.0 percent.
“Concerns are increasing that in a climate of negative interest rates and prolonged dovish monetary policy, banks’ profitability will be squeezed,” Jaisal Pastakia, investment manager at Heartwood Investment Management, said.
“Weak investor sentiment has been accentuated by the Bank of Japan’s decision to apply negative interest rates on excess reserves, which follows moves already taken by the European Central Bank, Sweden and Denmark. A high level of unprofitable loans on banks’ balance sheets impacts the broader economy by stifling both domestic demand and bank lending growth.”
Earlier this month, Credit Suisse reported its first full-year loss since 2008 after booking a big impairment charge at its investment banking business, while Deutsche Bank posted a record loss for 2015.
Energy stocks also lost ground, with the European oil and gas index felling more than 2 percent after crude oil prices slipped again after earlier gains.
Other European sectors sensitive to macroeconomic activities, such as autos, media, construction and technology, also fell 2.5 to 3.1 percent.
“It’s a difficult market environment. I would have hoped for a rebound in the market but after the last week’s actions, this is certainly off the table. The economic newsflow has to improve. So far it hasn’t on a decisive scale,” Gerhard Schwarz, head of equity strategy at Baader Bank in Munich, said.
European and U.S. shares fell sharply on Friday after U.S. jobs data showed employment gains slowed more than expected in January. Some recent economic numbers from China, the world’s second biggest economy, have also disappointed. (Editing by Alison Williams)