UPDATE 2-European stocks hit by worst selloff in almost 2 months on new virus strain fears

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UPDATE 2-European stocks hit by worst selloff in almost 2 months on new virus strain fears
Credit: © Reuters.

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* Oil, banks lead sectoral declines

* Shell to write down value of oil and gas assets again

* Frankfurt shares of BioNtech jump 1.7% (Updates to close)

By Susan Mathew

Dec 21 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Monday in their worst session in almost two months as the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus forced more stringent curbs in Britain and travel bans from several countries.

Broad-based losses pushed the pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX down 2.3%, its lowest close since mid-November, after the UK imposed an effective lockdown and reversed plans to ease curbs over Christmas as the new strain is up to 70% more transmissible than the original. long list of countries from around the world closed their borders to Britain, with European neighbour France's ban also including freight carriers. plunge in the pound GBP= limited losses in London's FTSE .FTSE to 1.7%, while main indexes in Germany .GDAXI , France .FCHI , Spain .IBEX and Italy .FTMIB all dived close to 3%. Spain's IBEX posted its worst day in six-months. .L GBP/

"Markets are reeling from the latest twist in the coronavirus crisis which has clouded the outlook for the remainder of 2020 and much of the first quarter of 2021," said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

"Restrictions on traffic between the UK and other countries, including in the case of France on freight, has raised the pressure on a supply chain already creaking under the weight of an online Christmas and Brexit uncertainty."

Travel and leisure stocks .SXTP had their worst day in three months, with British Airways owner IAG ICAG.L , Trainline TRNT.L and travel company TUI (LON: TUIT ) TUIGn.DE down between 1% and 10.5%. Cruise operator Carnival (NYSE: CCL ) Corp CCL.L shed 5.6%.

As crude oil prices slid, energy companies .SXEP BP BP.L , Total TOTF.PA and Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L lost almost 5%, leading losses in Europe. O/R

Shell was further weighed down by a $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion writedown in the value of oil and gas assets. .SX7P lost 3.6% - their worst day since September, as risk aversion sent investors fleeing to the safety of bonds. GVD/EUR

Uncertainty over Brexit trade deal negotiations added to pressure on the market. With less than two weeks before Britain leaves the European Union's orbit, neither side has budged far enough for a breakthrough. about the new virus strain also reduced the impact of an agreement on a $900 billion fiscal aid package in the United States that will be voted on Monday. MKTS/GLOB should still be effective against the new strain, scientists said. Britain has already rolled out the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, while the European Medicines Agency approved the vaccine on Monday. A European Commission nod is expected later in the day for a European roll-out. shares of BioNtech 22UAy.F rose 1.7%.

Among the few gainers were healthcare and consumer stocks such as Reckitt Benckiser RB.L and grocery retailer Ocado OCDO.L .

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