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June 29, 2020, 10:04 a.m. EDT

European equities fight for gains amid continued U.S. virus concerns

By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch


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Shoppers walk past a social distancing sign in the North Evington area on June 28, 2020, in Leicester, England. In a television appearance on Sunday, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed the government was considering a local lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases in the city.

European stocks struggled higher as a new week began on Monday, and investors’ focus remained on rising U.S. coronavirus infection rates and a grim milestone, as global cases surged past 10 million.

In back and forth action, the Stoxx Europe 600 index (STOXX:XX:SXXP) rose 0.3% to 359.28, after a 1.9% drop last week. The German DAX (XEX:DX:DAX)  gained 0.8%, the French CAC 40 (PAR:FR:PX1)  fell 0.6% and the FTSE 100 index (FTSE:UK:UKX)  rose 0.7%.

A reported tally on Sunday from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had reached a grim milestone of 500,108.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned on Sunday that “the window is closing” for his country to take action to curb the virus, as he predicted rising deaths and hospitalizations in the next couple of weeks. Texas, Arizona, Florida and California are among the states that have become worrying focal points.

In Europe, a Swiss nightclub and the U.K. city of Leicester reported clusters of outbreaks, though infection rates on the continent have slowed markedly compared with the U.S. or parts of Latin America.

Still optimism was building, as Dow Jones Industrial Average (CBT:YM00) jumped more than 200 points in early trading, after a more than 700-point loss on Friday. The trading week will be shortened by the July 4 holiday on Friday.

The European Union’s economic sentiment indicator — an aggregate measure of business and household confidence — rose to 75.7 from 67.5 in May, the biggest rebound on record. German consumer prices also rose above expectations, 0.6% on month in June versus the 0.3% that was expected.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to spend tens of billions of pounds to salvage the economy, by building hospitals, schools and housing developments and having “shovel-ready” road and rail projects, he said in an interview with The Mail on Sunday.

Banks helped support major indexes, with BNP Paribas (PAR:FR:BNP)  up 2% and UBS Group (SWX:CH:UBSG) (NYS:UBS) (NYS:UBS) (NYS:UBS) . Banco Santander (NYS:SAN)   (MCE:ES:SAN)  rose 3%.

Johnson is also expected to lay out to the public which countries they can visit, without requiring a quarantine on return, even as the city of Leicester has seen an outbreak and may extend its lockdown another two weeks. The European Union is expected to announce a further easing of flight and travel restrictions across the 14-country bloc as soon as Tuesday, with the U.K. expected to make the cut, but not the U.S..

Shares of TUI (FRA:DE:TUI1)  jumped 5% after the travel company said over the weekend that the U.K. and Ireland unit had seen a 50% week-on-week increase in bookings over the past week, as British holidaymakers got ready for a lifting of travel lockdowns. TUI outlined its plans to restart travel operations this summer, with flights to Ibiza and Palma starting on July 11, the company said.

Shares of airlines Ryanair Holdings (DUB:IE:RY4C)  and easyJet (LON:UK:EZJ)  rose over 4% and 3% each.

The European Union is expected to announce a further easing of flight and travel restrictions and quarantine measures across the 14-day nation in the coming days, with the U.K. expected to be allowed to come into the bloc. However, the U.S. isn’t expected to make the cut.

Shares of drinks maker Diageo (LON:UK:DGE)  slipped 1%. The company has joined a long list of companies vowing not to advertise on Facebook, as a “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign has built momentum. Starbucks (NAS:SBUX) , Unilever (NYS:UL)   (LON:UK:ULVR)  and Coca-Cola have already joined that movement.

Shares of consumer good company, Unilever (LON:UK:ULVR)  fell 2.4%.

Shares of Wirecard (FRA:DE:WDI)  surged nearly 200% after a 95% drop last week. The German fintech company said on Saturday that its business activities are continuing, even as it filed for insolvency last week, after revealing that more than $2 billion missing from its balance sheet likely never existed.

In deal news, shares of BP (NYS:BP)   (LON:UK:BP)  surged 2.6% after the energy giant said it has agreed to sell its global petrochemicals business to chemical producer INEOS for $5 billion. Shares of Royal Dutch Shell Group (NYS:RDS.A)   (NYS:RDS.B)  gained 1%.

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