By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
German stocks led European equities higher Thursday, but the broader market couldn’t avoid losses for March and the first quarter of 2018.
How markets moved
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +1.81% rose 0.4% to end at 370.87, fronted by gains for the consumer goods and basic materials groups. But the utility sector fared the worst. On Wednesday, the index rose 0.5%.
The strongest national index on Thursday was Germany’s DAX 30 /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +1.74% as it leapt 1.3% to 12,096.73, its first close above 12,000 in a week. The index still ended the first quarter with a 6.4% drop.
France’s CAC 40 index /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +2.39% finished up 0.7% at 5,167.30. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +1.98% tacked on 0.2% to end at 7,056.61. Britain on Thursday marked one year to go before the country is slated to leave the European Union, although a two-year Brexit transition deal was reached last week.
The euro /zigman2/quotes/210561242/realtime/sampled EURUSD +0.3596% traded at $1.2294, down from $1.2310 late Wednesday in New York. But the shared currency has risen roughly 2.4% against the greenback this quarter.
In the fixed-income market, the yield on Germany’s 10-year bund /zigman2/quotes/211347112/realtime BX:TMBMKDE-10Y +2.84% shed 1 basis point to 0.489%.
For March, the Stoxx 600 fell 2.3%, a second consecutive monthly decline. For the first quarter, it dropped by 4.7%, the worst performance since the first quarter of 2016, according to FactSet data.
What drove markets
Shares of car makers ran higher as trading got under way in the last session of March, after a Bloomberg report that France’s Renault SA /zigman2/quotes/200919924/delayed FR:RNO +4.64% is in talks to merge with Japan’s Nissan Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 +7.25% . The two companies currently have an alliance. Renault shares closed up 5.8%.
German auto shares were up alongside Renault, and the broader German market was higher following data that showed the unemployment rate in Europe’s largest economy reached a record low of 5.3% in March.
However, European blue-chip stocks still finished in the red for the month and the quarter, hurt in part by fears of a global trade war and a possibly stepped-up pace of interest-rate rises by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s tone on trade has helped drive some investor concerns, after his administration slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and considered taking aim at Chinese imports via similar duties.