EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Close Lower As Euro Touches Highest Since January 2015

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil and gas stocks fall as investors assess impact of Hurricane Harvey

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European stocks finished lower on Monday as the euro hit its highest level against the dollar in more than two years, while energy shares declined in the wake of refinery shutdowns prompted by then-Hurricane Harvey that pummeled Texas.

Trading was closed on the FTSE 100 as the U.K. observed the August Bank Holiday, meaning trading volumes were lighter than usual.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.5% to 372.29, near session lows. The pan-European index on Friday ended the session 0.1% lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-fight-for-gains-as-countdown-to-draghi-speech-begins-2017-08-25) and finished the week down by less than 0.1%.

Euro gain: Shares of exporters across Europe were pushed lower as the euro held on to the higher ground it reached after a speech by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/draghi-criticizes-protectionism-deregulation-push-2017-08-28) in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Friday.

Read: Recap of the Jackson Hole symposium coverage (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2017/08/25/jackson-hole-fed-conference-live-blog-yellen-draghi-on-tap/?mod=MW_story_latest_news)

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Among big exporting names, shares of German auto makers BMW (BMW.XE) and Daimler AG (DAI.XE) both fell by about 0.2%, and French beauty products maker L'Oréal SA (OR.FR) lost 0.4%.

Euro strength can hurt shares of exporters because it can erode revenue made overseas.

The shared currency pushed to its highest level in 2 1/2 years after Draghi's appearance at the meeting of global central bankers. The euro hit an intraday high of $1.1974 on Monday, its strongest level since January 2015, according to FactSet data, and made a similar move on Friday.

"Draghi didn't repress the euro bulls at his Jackson Hole speech on Friday," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at London Capital Group. "This has been perceived as a green light for speculation that the ECB may announce the much-expected quantitative easing tapering plans [at the bank's] September 7 policy meeting."

"The bias is positive" she said in her note. "Leveraged funds more than doubled their net positive euro positions last week."

The shared currency during Monday afternoon European trade flirted with $1.20, compared with $1.1924 late Friday in New York.

Harvey hits: The Stoxx Europe 600 Oil & Gas Index shed 0.4% as energy companies and investors assessed the impact of Hurricane Harvey. Shares of French oil producer Total SA (TOT) were down 0.4%.

Harvey, now downgraded to a tropical storm, left widespread damage in Texas after making landfall, knocking nearly 15% of U.S. refinery capacity out of commission (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/houston-flooding-expected-to-have-quite-awful-impact-on-energy-markets-2017-08-27). The heavy flooding it's caused could crimp even more of the country's energy infrastructure.

"It's bearish for crude oil and bullish for gasoline," Barnabas Gan, an analyst at OCBC in Singapore, told The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. gasoline futures shot up 4% on Monday while U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude futures slid more than 1% to trade below $48 a barrel.

Read:Why oil prices are sinking as gasoline soars after Harvey (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-oil-prices-are-sinking-as-gasoline-soars-after-harvey-2017-08-28)

(http://blogs.marketwatch.com/capitolreport/2017/08/25/jackson-hole-fed-conference-live-blog-yellen-draghi-on-tap/)Stock movers: Altice NV (ATC.AE) shares tacked on 1.3% after the telecommunications conglomerate said it would buy back up to 1 billion euros in shares (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/altice-to-buy-back-up-to-1-billion-in-shares-2017-08-28) through Aug. 31, 2018.

"Going forward, Altice will continue to assess the use of excess cash for either significantly accretive M&A opportunities or further shareholder returns," Altice said in a statement.

SGL Carbon SE shares (SGL.XE) leapt 3.4% after J.P. Morgan raised its rating on the carbon-fiber producer to overweight from neutral. "The group is now firmly on the road to recovery given the disposal of the loss-making Performance Products division and the elimination of the group's excessive debt burden," said J.P. Morgan analysts.

Indexes: Germany's DAX 30 index fell 0.4% at 12,123.47 and France's CAC 30 index gave up 0.5% at 5,079.75. Spain's IBEX 35 ended down 0.6% at 10,285.90.

--Mark DeCambre contributed to this article

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 28, 2017 12:01 ET (16:01 GMT)