April 3, 2020: European stock markets headed lower on Friday, erasing meagre gains for the week, as more companies flagged a hit to business from the coronavirus pandemic, foreshadowing a deeper earnings recession ahead of the reporting season.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.2% at 0705 GMT, with energy stocks tracking a slide in oil prices as investors grew doubtful about a Saudi-Russia deal that U.S. President Donald Trump said he had brokered.
Zurich Insurance Group AG, AXA SA, Munich Re and Prudential fell between 1.9% and 4.2% after the European Union's insurance regulator asked insurers and reinsurers to temporarily suspend dividends and share buybacks.
With the virus still spreading rapidly in Europe and prompting further halts in business activity, analysts have slashed earnings estimates for the second and third quarters, while dividends for the year are now expected to fall as much as 40%.
Britain's BAE Systems fell 1.3% after saying it would defer a decision on whether to pay its dividend and launching cost control measures following significant disruption from the virus outbreak.
H&M, the world's second-biggest clothing retailer, reported a 46% plunge in March sales and said it expected a loss in its fiscal second quarter.
However, the company's shares, which have lost 40% of their value since end January, jumped 5% as it said was taking steps to strengthen its liquidity buffer and cut operating expenses.