European Shares Drift Lower In Cautious Trade

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European stocks followed Asian peers lower on Monday, as investors fretted about the Covid situation in many parts of the world and awaited cues from this week's U.S. earnings season. U.S. inflation and retail sales data due this week also remained on investors' radar.

Concerns are growing across the European countries about the rising coronavirus cases' impact on economic recovery.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel set out plan to take control of the country's Covid response, with the federal government expecting to introduce a bill that would give national government power to impose restrictions in states with high infection rates.

The Dutch government also announced plans to extend night curfew and other restrictions until April 28.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to continue to "behave responsibly" as non-essential shops, restaurants, pubs and gyms are reopening today in the latest stage of the coronavirus lockdown easing in the country.

In the U.S., Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in an interview with CBS that the economy has brightened substantially due to faster vaccinations and intensive policy support, but there were risks if a quick reopening leads to a continued rise in coronavirus cases.

Asian markets fell in cautious trade, despite broadly positive cues from Wall Street on Friday, amid resurgence of coronavirus infections in many countries and shortage in vaccine supplies.

The pan European Stoxx 600 was down 0.2 percent at 436.26 after closing flat in the previous session.

The German DAX slid 15 points or 0.1 percent at 15,219 after closing 0.2 percent higher on Friday.

The benchmark CAC 40 dropped 0.2 percent to 6,157 after inching up 0.1 percent on Friday.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 dropped 23 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,893 after declining 0.4 percent on Friday.

On the economic front, February retail sales data for the Eurozone was down 2.9 percent year-over-year, while consensus was down 5.4 percent. On a month-over-month basis, February retail sales grew 3% versus 5.2 percent drop in January.

Further, data from Statistics Denmark showed that Denmark's consumer price index rose 1.0 percent year-on-year in March, following a 0.6 percent increase in February. Meanwhile, Denmark's industrial production dropped in February.

Turkey's jobless rate increased in February to 14.1 percent from 13.4 percent in January. Data from Statistics Finland showed that Finland's current account surplus increased in February.

In France, Sanofi shares were up 0.3 percent. The pharmaceutical company said that it will invest 400 million euros over next five years to build a vaccine production site in Singapore. It expects the project will create up to 200 local jobs.

Utilities Suez grew 8 percent and Veolia jumped 9 percent after announcing a merger deal.

In the U.K., AstraZeneca was trading slightly higher, despite announcing that its DARE-19 Phase III trial for Farxiga (dapagliflozin) in Covid-19 did not achieve statistical significance for the primary endpoint of prevention measuring organ dysfunction and all-cause mortality. As per reports, Merkel last Friday expressed her willingness to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca's coronavirus jab aiming to boost confidence in the shot.

Drug developer C4X Discovery Holdings PLC were gaining 11.7 percent after announcing a licensing deal with Sanofi.

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