By Barbara Kollmeyer
European stocks turned flat on Thursday, with strong earnings from Nokia, Unilever and Royal Dutch Shell contending with downbeat data from Germany and rising bond yields.
The Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.68% flipped a 0.5% gain from earlier to trade down 0.2% at 439.48. The German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +0.72% slid 0.8%, not helped by a surprise rise in jobless claims. The French CAC /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +0.17% was flat and the FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +1.03% rose 0.2%, each helped by gains for major oil companies.
U.S. stocks opened with upbeat results from device maker Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.17% and social-media platform Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +1.18% and more results on Thursday, such as equipment maker Caterpillar /zigman2/quotes/203434128/composite CAT -4.32% .
Government bond yields were rising on both sides of the Atlantic /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y +1.33% /zigman2/quotes/211347112/realtime BX:TMBMKDE-10Y +4.51% on Thursday, after U.S. data showed stronger-than-expected growth in the first quarter of 6.4% . Some downbeat news came from Germany, where jobless claims rose by 9,000 in April, after a 6,000 drop in March and forecasts for a 10,000 drop.
Nokia /zigman2/quotes/207421390/composite NOK +0.63% /zigman2/quotes/203672305/delayed FI:NOKIA -0.17% led a barrage of earnings, with shares of the Finnish telecoms-equipment maker reporting forecast-beating profit and revenue and backing guidance for 2021 and 2023. Shares led the Stoxx 600 with a 10% jump.
The energy sector saw a crop of upbeat results. Shares of Royal Dutch Shell climbed 1.5%, as the company reported stronger first-quarter earnings, as oil and gas prices continued to recover. France’s Total reported similarly strong results and shares also rose 1.5%. And Equinor /zigman2/quotes/202462536/composite EQNR -0.99% /zigman2/quotes/203290881/delayed NO:EQNR +0.70% shares jumped 2.4%, after the state-owned Norwegian multinational energy group swung to a net profit and lifted its dividend.
Elsewhere, consumer-goods giant Unilever /zigman2/quotes/204685760/composite UL +2.18% /zigman2/quotes/205449809/delayed UK:ULVR -0.31% said adverse currency effects hit turnover in the first quarter, but that full-year sales should meet multiyear growth targets , and a share-buyback program will begin next month. Unilever shares jumped 1.5%.
Deutsche Lufthansa /zigman2/quotes/201210530/delayed XE:LHA +1.02% said it expects a significant rebound in air travel in the second half of the year, after booking a narrower net loss in the first quarter. But shares of the German airline slipped 0.4%, after it said second-quarter demand will pick up only gradually. Analysts are also watching out for a possible capital increase.
Semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics /zigman2/quotes/207734906/composite STM +0.03% /zigman2/quotes/203551318/delayed IT:STM +0.01% reported higher net profit and revenue for the first quarter amid strong demand for chips during a global shortage. Shares slipped 0.7%.
Clariant /zigman2/quotes/208575719/delayed CH:CLN -0.94% reported a profit rise and said it expects to achieve above-market growth, higher profitability, and stronger cash generation in the medium term from its continuing businesses. Shares of the Swiss chemical group fell 2.7%.
BASF /zigman2/quotes/209015666/delayed XE:BAS +0.62% /zigman2/quotes/206981351/delayed DE:BASA -0.82% reported a strong rise in sales and earnings in the first quarter, and lifted its guidance for the full year as the global economy is expected to improve. Shares of the German chemicals company fell 1.8%.
Automobile makers dragged on the downside as well, with shares of Renault /zigman2/quotes/200919924/delayed FR:RNO +0.27% , Volkswagen /zigman2/quotes/206919008/delayed XE:VOW +1.43% , Porsche Automobil /zigman2/quotes/202769371/delayed XE:PAH3 +0.61% , Daimler , and BMW /zigman2/quotes/202432319/delayed XE:BMW +0.18% all sliding by more than 2%.
BMW said on Thursday that it would cut production at two plants over a chip shortage that has been hitting the industry. U.S. auto giant Ford /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -2.72% said a day earlier that it swung to a first-quarter profit, but would see a $2.5 billion hit from chip shortages.