By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) — European stock markets mostly posted gains on Friday, with banks in the driver’s seat, as bargain hunters took advance of recent market slides to buy beaten-down stocks ahead of the weekend.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.05% gained 0.5% to close at 285.21, after ending Thursday’s session unchanged.
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The index, however, posted its biggest weekly drop since November, down 2.5%, following disappointing macro economic data from the U.S. and China, which stoked fears of a slowdown in the global recovery. Further supporting the case for growth concerns, the International Monetary Fund earlier in the week lowered the global growth outlook to 3.3% in 2013, down 0.2 percentage points from an earlier forecast. Growth outlooks for the U.S. and the euro area were also downgraded.
“This was another case of the IMF reminding the market that the growth outlook in developed markets is still very challenging and we’ve seen it confirmed in the hard data in recent weeks. It has led to a correction and headlines from this week just further moved the market in that direction,” said James Ashley, economist at RBC Capital.
“Next week will be interesting with first-quarter GDP data from the U.S. and the U.K. We also have flash PMIs for the euro zone that are the first data sets of Q2 and will give us a sense if the downturn continued. We expect to see a modest improvement,” he added.
With little data to move markets on Friday, the positive moves came partly as investors were “looking for any excuse to buy into equities after a rough-and-tumble week in the stock markets,” said Shavaz Dhalla, financial trader at Spreadex in a note.
Back in Europe, shares of Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. soared 27%, after one of the miner’s founding shareholders Alexander Machkevitch said he is considering making a bid for the company.
Shares of Kazakhmys PLC /zigman2/quotes/208098927/delayed UK:KAZ +0.31% , which owns a 26% stake in ENRC, rallied 24%.
Another miner, Anglo American PLC /zigman2/quotes/201381512/delayed UK:AAL -0.53% rose 2.2% in London, after the firm said first-quarter output was higher across most commodities including copper, iron ore and diamonds.
Other miners were also showing upbeat performances, with Vedanta Resources PLC adding 6.1% and heavyweight Rio Tinto PLC /zigman2/quotes/208934945/delayed UK:RIO -0.30% . /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -2.03% /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -0.84% up 1.5%. The mining sector was earlier in the week among major decliners, hammered by slow-growth indications and a selloff in gold and silver prices.
Metals prices were mixed on Friday.