By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
European stocks finished sharply higher Friday, helping the pan-European benchmark produce its best weekly gain since early November, as investors cheered signs of progress on a U.S.-China trade deal. Upbeat corporate quarterly results and a comments from an ECB official helped to fortify gains on the day.
How are markets performing?
The Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP -0.77% climbed 1.4% to close at 368.94, booking a weekly gain of 3%, marking its best weekly climb since the week ended Nov. 2, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Within the region, France’s benchmark CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 -1.21% index was the best performer, rising 1.8% to end at 5,153.19, representing its highest close since Oct. 16. For the week, the CAC surged 3.9%, marking its best weekly gain since Feb. 16, 2018. Germany’s DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.04% rose 1.9% to 11,299.80, and climbed 3.6% for the week—its best weekly rise in 11 months, and the U.K.’s FTSE /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -1.73% climbed 0.6% to 7,236.68, help the British benchmark record a third consecutive weekly gain, up 2.3%.
The euro /zigman2/quotes/210561242/realtime/sampled EURUSD -0.2824% was down 0.3% against the U.S. dollar at $1.1280, while the British pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.0793% was steady at $1.2805.
What’s driving the markets?
The banking sector jumped over 2% after European Central Bank Executive Board member Benoît Coeuré reportedly said Friday that the eurozone’s inflation path will be “shallower” and the central bank will have to adapt. He said a new targeted longer-term refinancing operation, TLTRO, was possible and the central bank was discussing.
This week’s round of trade talks wrapped up between the U.S. and China on Friday, with negotiators citing progress on working toward a memorandum of agreement that could serve the base for a bigger deal. Talks will continue in Washington, D.C. next week, said a statement from the White House. Investors were expressing some relief over the talks as markets have been pinning gains on progress all week.
Data in the U.K. showed retail sales rebounded in January driven by clothing and footwear and as stores cut their prices. Elsewhere, data showed EU car registrations fell for a fifth straight month, though the data still represented the highest January volume on record since 2009. Volkswagen /zigman2/quotes/204309985/delayed DE:VOW3 -0.28% posted a drop in January sales and signaled a tough year ahead, but shares rose 1.8%.
Embattled Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a fresh rejection in parliament after pro-Brexit politicians refused to support her strategy to withdrawal from the EU. Friction between the U.K. and Europe appeared to worsen Friday after French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau reportedly urged the U.K. to “hurry up” and decide what they want to do because it is hurting Europe.
Spanish stocks rose despite political uncertainty. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called snap general elections for late April, likely bringing his short-lived government to an end after he lost critical support from Catalan separatist parties for his budget.
What shares are active?
Scout24 AG /zigman2/quotes/208888136/delayed DE:G24 +2.59% shares jumped 10.9%, making for the Stoxx Europe 600’s biggest gainer after the German online classified company said its management and supervisory boards are supporting a takeover offer from Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone Group LP /zigman2/quotes/203156858/composite BX -1.73% .
Standard Life /zigman2/quotes/200883281/delayed UK:SLA -2.57% shares slumped 6% after Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc /zigman2/quotes/207520099/delayed JP:8306 -0.76% unloaded its entire 5.9% stake in the asset manager for 349.3 million pounds ($448.0 million).
Meanwhile, the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index /zigman2/quotes/210599339/delayed XX:SX7P -2.10% , a popular index of Europe’s banking sector, closed up 2.7%, after Coeuré’s comments, which were seen as a positive to the banking sector.