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Europe: Shares end the week higher on positive earnings and US jobs growth

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[LONDON] European shares ended a mixed week on a positive note on Friday, helped by well-received company earnings and buoyant economic data, while mining stocks were hit by weaker metal prices.

The STOXX 600 closed up 0.5 per cent, bouncing back from losses seen in the previous session. The index ended the week down 0.6 per cent this week as concerns about the impact of US President Donald Trump's policies have halted a rally in risky assets.

The pan-European index benefited from positive Eurozone factory activity data in the morning, and got a midday boost from US non-farm payrolls growth which exceeded estimates.

Euro zone businesses started 2017 by increasing activity at the same multi-year record pace they set in December, purchasing managers' index surveys showed.

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Beazley was a top European gainer, up 7.2 per cent after the UK insurer reported a stronger than expected rise in full-year pretax profit. Beazley added to the insurance sector's outperformance, with French insurers AXA and Accor top of the CAC 40 too.

Well-received results also boosted shares in Sweden's Hexpol and Skanska, but Spain's Banco Popular fell 6.8 per cent after posting a full-year record 3.5 billion euros loss.

Swiss industrial baker Aryzta was also a top gainer, up 7.6 per cent, regaining ground from a sharp 32 per cent drop on Jan 24 after the company issued a profit warning.

Finnish paper producer Stora Enso was bottom of the STOXX after its Q4 results missed analysts' estimates.

Reports that Mr Trump would repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulation act boosted banking stocks as investors cheered the prospect of lighter banking regulation.

"The changes to Dodd-Frank are likely to be small to begin with but Trump is shifting the direction of travel from more to less regulation. That's a good thing for the financial sector, and less red tape is good for corporate America as a whole,"said Jasper Lawler, analyst at LCG Markets.

Intesa Sanpaolo rose to the top of Italy's blue-chip index after its Q4 results and a call with CEO Carlo Messina during which he reassured investors that a possible tie-up with insurer Generali would not disrupt dividend payouts.

Messina told analysts the bank would "take all the time it needs" to assess the possible merger. He said any M&A deal would have to respect the commitment to pay 3.4 billion euros in dividends to Intesa shareholders on 2017 accounts.

Miners fell 2.4 per cent, their biggest daily loss since Nov 15, and the biggest sectoral loser in Europe, tracking copper prices lower after China's surprise interest rate hike spooked metals markets with fears of a clampdown on speculators.

REUTERS

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