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Europe: Best week since April for shares as UK, Swiss indexes hit records


[LONDON] European shares powered to their best week since last April on Friday, with the British and Swiss benchmarks hitting records, propelled by optimism about a strengthening regional economy and fresh new highs on Wall Street.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was up 0.8 per cent, holding at a two-month high, while euro zone blue chips rose 1.1 per cent, also scoring its best performance since April.

Markets outside of the euro zone saw several record levels broken. Switzerland's blue chip SMI index rose 0.5 per cent to an all-time high, while Britain's FTSE 100 also jumped to another record, even if its rise, 0.4 per cent, was more modest than its European peers.

"There is little impediment for continued gains whilst economic conditions that we've seen over the last few months continue, and there's every reason to expect that to continue to be the case," Ken Odeluga, market analyst at City Index, said.

Market voices on:

"Every now and then when things are right you do get quite spectacular advances."

Gains were trimmed briefly when US non-farm payrolls missed expectations, but the upward trend resumed quickly.

European autos was the top-performing sector, up 1.9 per cent, while every other sector traded in positive territory.

Shares in Fiat Chrysler led the index with a 6.3 per cent rise while Peugeot and Volkswagen were among the biggest gainers, up 4.3 per cent and 2.7 respectively.

However, shares in British car insurer Admiral Group fell around three percent on the back of a downgrade from JP Morgan as well as some weak UK new car sales data.

Bayer was also a star performer of the day, with gains of 3.8 per cent setting it up for its strongest day since April as some analysts see its mammoth deal with Monsanto nearing closure.

"The probability of deal closure in Q1 has risen in our view following press reports Bayer is exploring the sale of additional assets to satisfy EU/US regulators," Citi analysts say.

Healthcare stocks also performed strongly and among them, Genmab shone with a 6.2 per cent rise as Jefferies wrote that the strong fundamentals of the sector should support EU biotech in 2018.

Struggling with "accounting irregularities", South Africa's Steinhoff jumped 6.5 per cent after it announced on Thursday its CFO would step down.

Deutsche Bank was the worst performer, losing 5.1 per cent after it said it would post a small net loss in 2017 after weak trading, a low level of client activity and the 1.5 billion euro (S$2.41 billion) negative impact of a tax overhaul in the United States.