Commerzbank fell sharply against a European market that continued to rally towards a five-year high, following a series of downgrades.

Berenberg, Nomura and Société Générale cut their target prices and maintained their “buy” or “reduce” ratings. The shares fell 3.7 per cent to €10.69, for the worst performance on Frankfurt’s Dax index

The continent’s benchmark FTSE Eurofirst 300 index advanced 0.7 per cent to 1,229.4, extending its rally and bringing it to its highest level since June 2008. The Dax rose 0.8 per cent to 8,249.7, the day after it surpassed its pre-crisis peak to hit a record high.

Demand for washing powder and other cleaning products boosted consumer products group Henkel. The shares rose 5 per cent to €75.34 after it announced a better than expected rise in operating profit. Kasper Rorsted, chief executive, also said the group was on the lookout for acquisitions. The company has said it has up to €4bn to spend on a deal.

The rally in equity markets claimed a victim in Aegon, the Dutch insurer, which suffered a three-fifths fall in operating profits because of hedging losses arising from the rise in US stocks. The loss was $281m in the first quarter and pushed net profit down to €204m. The shares fell 3.9 per cent to €4.99 as the Amsterdam benchmark rose 0.4 per cent to 357.93.

Deutsche Telekom gained 4.7 per cent to €9.56, its highest level since October, after beating expectations with a 4.5 per cent fall in revenue to €13.8bn.

Spain’s Telefónica, the continent’s largest telecoms group by revenue, fell 1.2 per cent to €11.15, after reporting sharp declines in European revenues that cancelled out Latin American growth. It also revealed that revenues in Brazil overtook sales in its home market.

France’s Eutelsat fell 8.4 per cent to €24.74 for the largest fall in the Eurofirst after saying sales would be towards the bottom of a range of predictions it had previously announced. Exane cut its target price and HSBC downgraded the shares to “neutral”. The company said federal budget cuts in the US were “hurting the multi-usage business more than we feared”.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 0.9 per cent to 3,956.28.

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