European shares muted as investors assess virus risks

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(Reuters) – European shares retreated from record highs on Thursday, as a rise in the number of new coronavirus cases in South Korea added to fears after research suggested the virus was more contagious than previously thought.

Residents of a South Korean city, Daegu, were asked to stay indoors after 23 new virus infections were traced to church services in the city. The news sparked fears of the epidemic’s global impact, even as China reported a sharp fall in the number of new cases.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index () was down 0.2% at 0802 GMT, after hitting an all-time high in the previous session on expectations of another intervention by the Chinese central bank.

The bank cut its benchmark lending rate on Thursday, but broader concerns about the business impact of the fast-spreading virus led global equity markets lower.

Air France-KLM (PA:) fell 3.2% after joining a growing list of companies to warn about disruptions from the virus outbreak.

Swedish radiation therapy equipment maker Elekta AB (ST:) slid to the bottom of the STOXX 600 index after reporting quarterly operating profit growth below estimates and a fall in new orders in the United States.

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