By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
MADRID (MarketWatch) — European stock markets closed higher on Thursday, driven by well-received results from Nordic banks and Unilever NV, along with news that the U.K. economy grew 1% in the third quarter.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +1.11% added 0.3% to 270.23. Along with other major European indexes, the Stoxx 600 snapped a three-day losing streak on Wednesday, gaining 0.4% to close at 269.52.
U.S. stocks rose, helped by Procter & Gamble Co. /zigman2/quotes/202894679/composite PG +1.80% and Aetna Inc. , as those firms’ earnings exceeded analysts expectations. Data also helped support markets, with U.S. durable-goods orders jumping 9.9% in September. See: U.S. stocks rise with data on global economy.
The banking, drug and diversified-food sectors drove gains for Europe. Nordic banks DNB ASA /zigman2/quotes/201446004/delayed NO:DNB +0.41% and SEB AB /zigman2/quotes/201173722/delayed SE:SEB.A -1.34% , both reported higher profit, with shares up 2.9% and 1.6%, respectively. Read: Nordic banks' earnings rise; credit quality firm.
Shares in heavyweight Unilever /zigman2/quotes/201848945/composite UN +2.79% /zigman2/quotes/207232543/delayed NL:UNA +1.98% jumped 2.6% after the firm reported higher sales, boosted by price rises. The consumer-goods giant warned of continued global uncertainty. Read: Unilever warns of uncertainty as sales rise.
Markets keep eye on earnings
As corporate earnings come in lower than expected, markets are fluctuating on the news.
John Ventre, fund manager at Skandia Investment Group, said markets are unwinding some from a few days of bearish sentiment.
“There’s enough reason to understand why markets have paused a little bit after their big run-up, but the general risk-on dynamics seem to be intact to me,” Ventre said.
“Putting it in the context of what’s happening in the government bond markets in particular and emerging-market currencies, there really doesn’t seem to be a mass exit of all types of risk assets just because European equities [were] down for a few days,” he said.
Also higher in Europe: BASF SE /zigman2/quotes/204280060/delayed DE:BAS +1.18% rose 0.8% after the German chemicals company confirmed its outlook for the year, even as it posted a fall in third-quarter after-tax profit. Read: BASF backs outlook, reports lower profit.
That stock did some heavy lifting for the German DAX 30 index /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +0.86% , which ended up 0.1% to 7,200.23. The index was able to shake off a 2.7% drop by Daimler /zigman2/quotes/205332368/delayed DE:DAI +1.01% . The auto maker warned the previous day that 2013 profit before interest and tax would fall from a year earlier. Read: Daimler sees full-year decline in EBIT; shares off.
In London, shares of AstraZeneca PLC , /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +3.08% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN +2.95% rose 0.4% after the company posted a profit fall in the third quarter due to losing patent protection on a key drug, but stuck to its full-year earnings forecast.
In London, the FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +2.04% ended flat at 5,805.05, helped by gains in the bank sector. Standard Chartered PLC /zigman2/quotes/200125072/delayed UK:STAN +2.43% closed up 1.2%. Barclays PLC /zigman2/quotes/208409333/delayed UK:BARC -0.23% /zigman2/quotes/206581728/composite BCS +0.61% added 1.3%.
Adding support, the U.K. economy saw stronger-than-expected growth in the third quarter, a gain of 1%, which was the biggest quarterly rise since 2007. Read: Dollar off, sterling jumps as U.K. sees growth.
In Paris, the CAC 40 index /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +0.90% reversed earlier gains to fall 0.4% to 3,411.53.
Among other companies reporting, France Telecom SA posted a drop in third-quarter profit, said 2013 could be tougher than this year and proposed to cut its dividend. Shares fell 5.2%.
Shares in drug maker Sanofi SA /zigman2/quotes/206928357/delayed FR:SAN +0.65% /zigman2/quotes/201967021/composite SNY +2.11% added 1.4% and heavyweight insurer AXA SA /zigman2/quotes/202169431/delayed FR:CS +0.65% climbed 1% after the company reported a 3.7% sales rise for the first nine months of the year.