European markets close nearly 2% lower; sterling slips to 21-month low as UK pulls Brexit vote

European markets slipped on Monday afternoon, falling on worries over slowing economic growth and after a Brexit vote in U.K. parliament was been delayed by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished provisionally down by around 1.8 percent with all sectors and major bourses in negative territory.

Britain’s FTSE 100 index slipped, down 0.7 percent, after May confirmed to the parliament that the crucial Brexit vote will be pulled.

Meanwhile, sterling slipped to one-and-a-half year lows on the news. The U.K. currency was trading at around 1.2548 against the dollar at around 4:00 p.m. London time.

Germany’s BASF SE was a poor performer in the chemicals sector, slipping more than 4  percent after the company slashed its forecast for profits in 2018 late last week.

Autos stock, seen as a trade war proxy because of its export-heavy constituents, trading 2.8 percent lower amid elevated trade tensions. Fiat Chrysler slipped more than 3 percent while Renault and PeugeotCitroen fell around 4 percent each.

Looking at individual stocks, Air France KLM rose toward the top of the European benchmark during early afternoon deals. It comes after the airline reported better-than-expected traffic figures for November, prompting shares to rise over 1.6 percent. However, the Paris-listed company is still down around 30 percent year-to-date.

Brexit vote

A Brexit vote in U.K. parliament has been delayed by Prime Minister Theresa May, following fears that the British government was headed for an embarrassing defeat.

The move was confirmed in a statement by May to lawmakers in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

May claimed that while there was broad support for her deal, the issue of the Northern Irish backstop remained a concern and she would return to European counterparts to renegotiate the deal.

At the start of her statement, sterling was at $1.2640 versus the dollar and fell to $1.2563 as she spoke. By the close of European trade, sterling was lower by 1.5 percent.

U.S. stocks

Elsewhere, investors are increasingly concerned about a possible economic slowdown, shortly after the U.S., China, and Japan all reported weaker-than-expected economic data.

It comes at a time when traders are also closely monitoring trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Sunday that talks between the two sides must reach a successful end by March 1, following conflicting comments about whether a hard deadline had been agreed.

In early trade stocks traded sharply lower on Monday in a volatile session as banks and Apple led the decline. Traders pointed to a number of reasons for the selling, including an adverse ruling in a Chinese court against Apple, a flattening yield curve and a delayed Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.

Source: CNBC