Inflation, growth woes drive European shares down for third week



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* STOXX 600 falls 4.6% this week

* Euro zone inflation confirmed at record high 8.1% in May

* Santander inches up after CEO change

By Sruthi Shankar and Bansari Mayur Kamdar

June 17 (Reuters) - European stocks edged higher on Friday, but posted their third straight week of losses as a slew of interest rate hikes from major central banks fuelled worries about a sharp economic slowdown.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX rose 0.1% in volatile trade, but ended the week 4.6% lower.

World stock markets were heading for their biggest weekly decline since a pandemic-induced meltdown in March 2020, hit by growing worries about a recession after rate increases in the United States and Britain were followed by a surprise move in Switzerland to quell an inflation surge.

"Bargain hunting is the name of the game, but ultimately the big picture never really went away," said David Madden, market analyst at Equiti Capital.

"The fact that you can't even hang on to a rally for a full trading session really says a lot. This is kind of typical of an aggressive bearish streak, whereby you have massive down days and the up days are little less than half a percent."

Adding to concerns, euro zone inflation rose to a record high 8.1% last month, in line with a preliminary estimate, more than four times the European Central Bank's target and underscoring its plans to raise interest rates next month.

The STOXX 600 has shed about 17.3% so far this year on worries over the deteriorating economic outlook and hit to corporate earnings from surging prices and aggressive tightening measures by central banks.

Several regional markets are nearing or have marked a 20% decline from their recent peaks, a commonly used definition of a bear market.

Among the worst-hit European sectors this week were technology .SX8P , retail .SXRP and commodity-linked sectors such as oil & gas .SXEP and miners .SXPP .

Bridgewater Associates has placed at least $6.7 billion in bets against European stocks, according to data group Breakout Point, in a sign that the hedge fund firm may be pessimistic about companies on the continent.

Among individual stocks, Spanish lender Santander SAN.MC gained 2.3% after it named Hector Grisi as its new chief executive officer, replacing long-time executive Jose Antonio Alvarez.

Finland-based Nokian Tyres TYRES.HE jumped 10.3% after the tyre maker raised its net sales guidance for 2022.
Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Alex Richardson

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