(ADVISORY- Reuters plans to replace intra-day European and UK stock market reports with a Live Markets blog on Eikon - see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets for site in development. See the bottom of the report for more details)
* Pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index down sharply
* Travel and leisure stocks lead the market lower
* Partners Group bucks the trend after update
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - European shares fell sharply on Tuesday, with travel and leisure stocks leading the market lower after explosions in Brussels killed several people.
Explosions tore through the departure hall of Brussels airport, and a separate blast hit a metro station in the capital shortly afterwards, the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF said.
“Geopolitical risk, including acts of terrorism which directly affect trade or movement, remains a significant risk factor to monitor,” said Lorne Baring, managing director of B Capital Wealth Management in Geneva.
“In a period where there is suboptimal growth both in Europe and globally, combined with equity valuations that are no longer cheap, there exists an environment which is susceptible to shocks that can act as a trigger for falls in asset prices.”
The STOXX Europe 600 Travel and Leisure index fell 2.4 percent, the top sectoral decliner, with shares in easyJet , Ryanair, Accor, TUI and IAG down by 3.1-4.2 percent.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 1.1 percent at 1,324.35 points, while Belgium’s benchmark share index fell nearly 1 percent. Across Europe, Germany’s DAX fell 1.2 percent, while France’s CAC dropped 1.3 percent.
Investors remained focused on unfolding events in Brussels, although there were some positive data releases.
French private sector activity expanded in March at the fastest pace in five months as a stronger than expected rebound in services helped offset weakness in manufacturing, while growth in Germany’s private sector was steady in March, also helped by a solid upturn in the services industry, separate surveys showed.
Bucking the trend, Partners Group shares rose 3.7 percent after the global private markets investment management firm proposed an increased dividend and said its FY revenues increased by 8 percent despite foreign exchange headwinds.
Today’s European research round-up
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (Editing by Hugh Lawson)