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Europe: Shares rise, aided by defensives amid gloomy trade outlook

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[BENGALURU] European shares rose on Friday, with surging shares of Thyssenkrupp and robust defensive stocks helping equities on the continent avert the losses seen among their US peers, which slid on persisting worries about US-China trade.

US President Donald Trump said he was in no hurry to sign a trade deal with China as a new set of US tariffs on Chinese goods kicked in, dashing hopes the world's top two economies would salvage a last-minute trade deal.

European investors shuffled their equity holdings as they braced for more volatility on the second day of US-China trade talks, with defensive stocks gaining popularity over the course of the session.

The STOXX 600 index gained 0.3 per cent, lifting off an about one and a half month closing low clocked on Thursday. The pan-European index still recorded its biggest weekly decline this year, down 3.4 per cent, bruised by trade worries.

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Market voices on:

"If things do escalate then this will have an impact of around 0.5 percentage points of global GDP and that would not be inconsiderable," said Julian Mayo, chief investment strategist at investment management firm Fiera Capital.

Germany's DAX rose 0.7 per cent, with Thyssenkrupp - also the STOXX 600's top gainer - lifted 28.2 per cent by short-covering on news it will list its successful elevators business and embark on a fresh restructuring.

The level of short interest on Thursday was 38.3 million shares, the largest amount in more than four years, according to data from FIS Astec Analytics. Around 6.1 per cent of Thyssenkrupp's outstanding shares were out on loan.

Thyssenkrupp shares' barnstorming performance on the day helped trim the degree to which they have underperformed industrial goods and services stocks in the year to date.

French and Italian stocks each tacked on 0.3 per cent, while their London-traded peers eased marginally.

Defensive stocks such as those in the real estate and utilities sectors rose 0.3 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively.

With yields on German bonds maturing up to 10 years from now in negative territory, according to data on Refinitiv Eikon, European investors also favor defensive stocks for their dividend yields, relatively secure in a "lower-for-longer" position held by the European Central Bank.

Chemicals stocks gained 1.3 per cent, with Linde leading the sector index with a 4.1 per cent rise. The firm's chief financial officer said it would hit the upper end of its 2019 earnings per share guidance, if the current business environment holds up.

Stocks of auto-makers and their suppliers slid 1 per cent to their lowest closing level in more than a month, with Daimler falling 3.2 per cent. The sector is relatively exposed to global trade ructions.

"A trade deal getting less likely in Q2 after Trump's moves today...hopefully we can get a short break from Trump's tweets and enjoy spring time instead," Allan von Mehren, chief analyst and China economist at Danske Bank, wrote in a note.

LafargeHolcim gained 2.8 per cent as the world's top cement maker agreed to sell its Philippines operations. Credit Suisse also raised its price target on the stock.

REUTERS