By Barbara Kollmeyer
A previous version of this report gave an incorrect reference to Chinese growth data. The story has been corrected.
European stocks were setting up for fresh record highs on Friday, as investors absorbed strong data out of China and a handful of corporate results. U.S. stock futures were holding mostly steady after Wall Street also saw a record-setting session.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +1.00% rose 0.5% to 440.98, after rising to a record close of 438.55 on Thursday. The index was headed for its fourth straight weekly gain, up 0.9%. The German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +1.43% climbed 0.9% to 15,402.54, gains that will take out Thursday’s record high for the index if they hold. The DAX is also headed for its seventh straight weekly gain, up 1.1%.
The French CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +1.50% gained 0.4% and the FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +1.12% added 0.7%. The euro /zigman2/quotes/210561242/realtime/sampled EURUSD -0.0171% and British pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.0146% were flat against the dollar.
Investors cheered data from China that showed blowout gross domestic product growth of 18.3% in the first quarter, and the fastest on record, even as it missed expectations slightly. That compared to 6.5% year-over-year growth in the final quarter of 2020. Industrial production and retail sales also saw double-digit growth.
“China’s stellar economic prints, coupled with Thursday’s better-than-expected data out of the U.S., shows the global economic recovery is indeed gathering momentum and such prospects appear to justify the bullish prospects for risk assets moving forward,” said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM, to clients in a note.
The spread of COVID-19 was in focus, after France on Thursday recorded more than 100,000 deaths, the third European country to do so, even as the pace of vaccinations has been picking up. Germany is also struggling with a third wave and considering further restrictions.
Europe’s already faltering immunization program was dealt another blow this week after pharmaceutical Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ +0.44% said it would delay the planned rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine on the continent. Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to permanently stop using drug company AstraZeneca’s /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +1.08% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN +1.76% vaccine, following news of its possible link to very rare blood clot cases.
Norway’s government, meanwhile, delayed a decision to ditch AstraZeneca’s vaccine, saying it needs more time to decide whether to restart use of the shot. An expert panel will also look at whether the country should use Johnson & Johnson’s shot.
Automobile makers were in the lead after data showed passenger-car registrations in the European Union surged 87% in March , but against a low comparison base in 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions introduced at the time.
Daimler shares /zigman2/quotes/201850364/delayed XE:DAI +0.22% rose nearly 3%, after the auto maker, citing preliminary results , said first-quarter earnings will be above the market forecast, thanks to a solid performance by its Mercedes-Benz unit.
HelloFresh /zigman2/quotes/203376622/delayed XE:HFG +3.86% lifted 2021 revenue guidance, after the German meal-kit maker said revenue and earnings in its first quarter should beat market forecasts. Shares climbed 4%.
Sector gains were led by financials, with Bank of Ireland /zigman2/quotes/204220078/delayed IE:BIRG -2.14% /zigman2/quotes/207607862/delayed UK:BIRG -1.70% up 6%, after the bank said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with KBC Bank Ireland to potentially acquire all of its performing loan assets and liabilities.
And HeidelbergCement /zigman2/quotes/201360961/delayed XE:HEI -0.12% said late on Thursday that it expects higher first-quarter revenue and earnings numbers that beat market expectations. Shares of the German cement maker rose 2%.