July 24, 2020 / 7:44 AM / 16 days ago

Escalating U.S.-China tensions weigh on European stocks

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July 24 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Friday as global sentiment soured after Beijing ordered United States to close its consulate in a Chinese city in retaliation to similar action from Washington.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 1.5%, on track for its biggest one-day drop in a month, pushing it into losses for the week.

Technology stocks led losses following a sell-off in U.S. peers overnight, while the China-sensitive basic materials sector lost 1.9%

Investors will be on the lookout for euro zone manufacturing and service PMIs due at 0800 GMT. After last month’s rise, the numbers are expected to cross above the 50 point mark which separates contraction and growth, as businesses reopened after closures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

This comes after data on Thursday showed euro zone consumer confidence fell in July.

British Gas owner Centrica surged 30% to top the STOXX 600, despite posting lower first-half earnings as it announced plans to sell its North American business Direct Energy to NRG Energy for $3.63 billion.

Norwegian energy company Equinor ASA rose 0.5% after reporting an 89% drop in operating profit, while analysts had expected a loss.

The world’s biggest lighting maker, Signify NV jumped 4.5% after a 62% jump in second-quarter net profit, and on plans to pay down 350 milllion euros ($406 million) in debt this year. (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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