European stocks close higher again

Europe Week
Strong Performance By Retail Stocks Push Ftse 100 Up

European markets closed higher on Thursday, extending recent gains, as investors reacted positively to the European Central Bank’s monetary policy announcement, and some encouraging earnings reports.

The European Central Bank today left interest rates unchanged and made no changes to its bond-buying efforts. The central bank said the Governing Council decided to “reconfirm its very accommodative monetary policy stance.

“The central bank said it would continue to buy bonds under its 1.85 trillion euro pandemic emergency purchase program until at least the end of March 2022, while net purchases under its asset purchase program would continue at a monthly pace of 20 billion euros. The bank added that PEPP purchases, as decided at the ECB’s previous meeting, will continue at a significantly faster pace over the current quarter.

The pan European Stoxx 600 climbed 0.68 per cent. Britain’s FTSE 100 ended 0.62 per cent up, Germany’s DAX surged up 0.82 per cent, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.91 per cent and Switzerland’s SMI edged up 0.14 per cent.

Among other markets in Europe, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey closed higher. Czech Republic edged up slightly.

In the British market, Scottish Mortgage, IAG, RightMove, Experian, JD Sports Fashion, Rolls-Royce Holdings, Auto Trader Group, Diageo, Johnson Matthey, Aveva Group, Land Securities and Ocado gained 2 to 4 per cent.

Melrose Industries climbed higher thanks to a rating upgrade of the stock by investment bank Peel Hunt. Polymetal International gained 3.5 per cent after its quarterly results beat forecasts.
BAE Systems shed more than 5 per cent. Fresnillo, Informa and Antofagasta lost 2 to 2.2 per cent.

In the French market, WorldLine surged up nearly 6.5 per cent. Valeo, Safran, Veolia, STMicroElectronics, Hermes International and Airbus Group gained 2 to 4 per cent. Thales, Engie, Michelin, Danone, LOreal and Schneider Electric also closed notably higher.

Shares of drinks maker Pernod Ricard moved higher after the company reported strong sales growth in the three months to the end of March, helped by strong demand in its key US and Chinese markets.

Orange shares declined 1.6 per cent. Although the company saw an increase in first quarter revenues at 10.3 billion euros, its core operational profits retreated 0.3 per cent to 2.6 billion euros in the quarter.

Renault ended more than 1 per cent down after the French car maker’s revenue unexpectedly fell in the first quarter as it lagged behind European peers in recovering from the pandemic.

In Germany, RWE and Continental gained more than 4.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent, respectively. SAP shares gained about 3.5 per cent after the company said its net profit for the first quarter rose on year to 1.65 billion euros from 1.02 billion euros in the year ago quarter and confirmed an increase in operating profit which it had announced earlier in the month.

MTU Aero Engines, Lufthansa, E.ON, Deutsche Wohnen, Infineon Technologies, Henkel, Fresenius Medical Care, Vonovia and Volkswagen gained 1 to 3 per cent.

Shares of Swiss lender Credit Suisse are down 5.8 per cent. The bank reported a net loss of 252 million Swiss francs (295 million dollars) in the first quarter. The bank said the loss reflected a “significant charge with respect to the US-based hedge fund Archegos Capital matter in the first quarter, offsetting positive performance across wealth management and investment banking.

“The European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde on Thursday said the near term outlook for the euro area economy remained clouded with high uncertainty, but data suggest the single currency bloc could expand in the second quarter.

“Incoming economic data, surveys and high-frequency indicators suggest that economic activity may have contracted again in the first quarter of this year, but point to a resumption of growth in the second quarter,” she added.

The ongoing pandemic, including the spread of virus mutations, and its implications for economic and financial conditions continued to be sources of downside risk for the Eurozone economy outlook, Lagarde said.

Monthly survey data from the statistical office Insee showed French manufacturing confidence improved in April, with the manufacturing sentiment index advancing to 104 in the month from 99.0 in March. Economists had forecast the index to remain at 99.0.

The reading exceeded its long-term average of 100 for the first time since February 2020.

British manufacturing orders grew at the fastest pace in two years and the optimism among manufacturers rose the most since 1973, survey results from the Confederation of British Industry showed on Thursday.

The order book balance rose to +5 per cent in three months to April from -12 per cent in January, the latest Industrial Trends survey revealed. This was the biggest growth since April 2019.

Business sentiment in the quarter to April advanced to +38 per cent from -22 per cent in January. This was the fastest growth since April 1973.

Switzerland’s exports grew in the first quarter, data from the Federal Customs Administration showed. The report said exports increased 4.9 per cent sequentially in the first quarter, following a 13 per cent rise in the fourth quarter.

Imports grew 1.9 per cent in the first quarter, after a 1.1 per cent drop in the previous quarter. The trade surplus rose to 11.28 billion Swiss francs in the first quarter from 9.405 billion Swiss francs in the previous quarter.

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