European stocks fall after new Paris gun battle, explosion

Two dead, one suicide blast, stocks plummet

Alan Soughley and Camila Russo

European stocks retreated as investors assessed value after the strongest rally in six weeks, with France’s CAC 40 Index among the biggest decliners after a police gun battle with suspects linked to the Paris terror attack.

Air Liquide SA slid the most on the French equity gauge, falling 6.7 percent after agreeing to purchase U.S. rival Airgas Inc. The CAC 40, which jumped the most in six weeks yesterday, retreated 0.7 percent at 2:21 p.m. in Paris after the shootout left at least two people dead. L’Oreal SA slid 1.2 percent and BNP Paribas SA lost 0.9 percent in France. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.3 percent to 378.59, paring earlier losses of as much as 0.8 percent.

The Stoxx 600 is falling after a rally in energy producers helped push it higher in the two trading days following the attacks in Paris. The gauge closed yesterday 12 percent higher than its September low, boosted by optimism that the European Central Bank will add to stimulus measures.

“You’ve had a good run in the market so there’s a short- term profit taking after a really strong day,” said Patrick Spencer, equities vice chairman at Robert W. Baird & Co. in London. “On top of that, the strong U.S. inflation numbers put further evidence that there’s going to be a rate hike and that’s a concern of European equities as it makes borrowing more expensive for companies.”
Investors are also awaiting minutes from the Federal Reserve due after the close of European trading to gauge the likelihood of an increase in borrowing costs next month. U.S. inflation data yesterday bolstered the case for higher interest rates.

European stocks will be under pressure in the near term because it’s unlikely that riskier assets such as equities will do well if the Fed raises rates and financial conditions tighten, Deutsche Bank AG’s Sebastian Raedler wrote in a note published Nov. 17.

Among other companies active today, LafargeHolcim Ltd. fell 1.4 percent after Vontobel Holding AG downgraded the cement maker to hold from buy.

U.K. Mail Plc tumbled 11 percent to the lowest in almost three years after the delivery service said it’s cutting dividends as expenses associated with a new headquarters and upgrading equipment will weigh more than previously expected on 2016 earnings.

Enel SpA led utilities lower, falling 2.7 percent after saying it will buy back its renewables energy business. Telefonica SA lost 1.9 percent as it traded without the right to its dividend.

Miners posted the best performance on the Stoxx 600, recovering from an earlier slide, as commodity prices rebounded. Glencore Plc advanced 2.5 percent, Rio Tinto Group added 1 percent and Anglo American Plc gained 1.3 percent.

Syngenta AG added 1.9 percent after Monsanto Co.’s chief operating officer said his company is considering whether to make another attempt to acquire the world’s largest pesticide maker. Wirecard AG climbed 2.5 percent after the payments processor posted a 29 percent jump in third-quarter earnings.
French Pre-Dawn Terror Raid Leaves 2 Dead, 7 in Custody
Blaise Robinson, John Follain and Geraldine Amiel

Heavily armed police and military descended on a Paris suburb before dawn, targeting what they believed was the hideout of the architect of last week’s terrorist violence in a raid that led to two deaths and seven arrests.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said one young woman blew herself up, and another extremist was killed by bullets and hand grenades during the seven-hour operation that saw authorities cordon off the center of Saint Denis, the very Paris suburb where Friday’s attacks began.

Phone taps, surveillance and witness accounts led investigators to believe that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 20-something Belgian citizen who called himself a “terrorist tourist” on Facebook, was holed up in Saint Denis, Molins said. As the operation ended at about 11:30 a.m., his whereabouts were unknown. The identities of the dead and those detained were still being checked.

“I was woken up by the sound of gun shots. I looked outside the window and there were police vans everywhere,” said Koukene Nadir, 36, who lives close by the pedestrian shopping street in the heart of the old town that was sealed off. “It lasted for about 15 minutes, and then again we heard a blast at around 7.”

Five men were barricaded in the apartment as the area was surrounded by police, soldiers and vehicles including police vans and military trucks. As the standoff dragged on, with schools and shops shut, the bells from the basilica where French kings were entombed chimed every 15 minutes. 

Helicopters Circle

One civilian was injured by gunfire, Mayor Didier Paillard told France 2 television, after failing to stop “when told by police because they wanted to enter the building.” People living in the area were told to stay indoors. Helicopters circled the area.

President Francois Hollande tracked the operation from his office at the Elysee Palace, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls and the ministers of the interior, defense and justice as the focus swung back to the streets of Paris from the global stage. Hollande this week urged the U.S. and Russia to set aside their differences over Syria and Ukraine and work together. Russia and France, long at loggerheads over their approach to the war in Syria, took steps toward a united military front against Islamic State in response to the massacre in Paris and a downed plane in Egypt.

The aircraft-carrier Charles de Gaulle was due to sail from the Mediterranean port of Toulon on Wednesday, a deployment that will boost the number of French jets available for strikes in Syria to 48 from the current 12.

France has stepped up bombing of Islamic State targets at the terror group’s stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. Families of Islamic State leaders and fighters have started leaving Raqqa and are headed to Mosul, in northern Iraq, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syria war through activists on the ground.

Taken Into Custody

An unidentified person interviewed by BFM TV, who said the targeted apartment was his, said he didn’t know the people staying at his flat were suspected extremists. Asked how they ended up there, he replied: “I was asked to help out, so I helped out. I was asked to put some people up for two or three days so I helped out.” He added: “I learned about it the same as you.” He was later taken into custody.

Abaaoud, the son of a Moroccan shopkeeper, joined the ranks of the Islamic State a few years ago. Boasting a high profile on social media, Abbaoud is also linked by French officials to a failed assault on a Paris-bound high-speed train in August and a plot to attack a church in the city in April.

Belgian security officials began tracking him in March 2014 after he appeared in a video behind the wheel of a pickup truck dragging mutilated bodies to a mass grave.

The attacks on Friday at seven sites in the Paris area killed 129 people and injured more than 300. French police have conducted a dragnet across the country since then, carrying out hundreds of raids and searches.

After French police arrested 23 suspected extremists in a nationwide crackdown on Monday and conducted 128 raids that night, the investigation had spread to Belgium and Germany. Security forces are seeking Salah Abdeslam, who police believe was an accomplice to the Paris attacks and whose brother Brahim Abdeslam has been named as one of the suicide bombers.

Belgian prosecutors on Monday charged two suspects detained after the attacks, while other searches in the Brussels district of Molenbeek failed to lead to new arrests. Seven people were arrested Tuesday in a German town near the Belgian border before being released once police established that Abdeslam wasn’t among them.

In Saint Denis, a man near the scene of the raid who gave his name only as Said, and described himself as a French Muslim, welcomed the police operation. “It’s about time the police come to Saint-Denis to get rid of these supposed Muslims,” he said. “Hopefully this is the beginning of the solution for the neighborhood and for France.”