By Barbara Kollmeyer
European stocks struggled for traction on Friday, taking a cue from a weaker close on Wall Street sparked by reports that wealthy Americas were facing a hike in capital-gains taxes.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.34% was slightly lower at 439.60, following the third-highest close in history and a gain of 0.7% on Thursday. On a weekly basis, the index is thus far down 0.7%, which would mark the first weekly fall since late February.
The German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.21% slipped 0.2%, the French CAC 40 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +1.04% rose 0.1% and the FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +1.04% dipped 0.2%. The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD -0.0498% was up about 0.3% against the U.S. dollar at $1.3882.
U.S. stock futures /zigman2/quotes/209948968/delayed ES00 -0.04% /zigman2/quotes/210219788/delayed NQ00 -0.06% /zigman2/quotes/210407078/delayed YM00 -0.05% inched higher, hinting at a bounce for equities later. Thursday’s session left the Dow Jones Industrial Average with a 321-point loss, following a report on Bloomberg News that President Joe Biden would propose nearly doubling the capital-gain taxes rate for wealthy Americans. The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.04% and Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -1.59% lost 0.9% each.
There were encouraging signs in fresh European economic data. The IHS Markit eurozone purchasing managers index (PMI) composite output index rose to a nine-month high of 53.7, with the flash eurozone manufacturing output PMI at a record high and the services PMI at an eight-month high.
“In a month during which virus containment measures were tightened in the face of further waves of infections, the eurozone economy showed encouraging strength,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.
The auto sector was leading European stock gains, with shares of Daimler up 1.6%. The German luxury car maker increased the margin targets for its Mercedes-Benz and Mobility divisions for the year, after profit and revenue increased in the first quarter.
Remy Cointreau /zigman2/quotes/206802273/delayed FR:RCO +1.31% reported sales rose slightly in its full fiscal year, adjusted for currency effects, as strong cognac sales lifted fourth-quarter revenue. Shares of the French drinks group slipped 0.4%. Shares of rival drinks maker Diageo /zigman2/quotes/205611832/delayed UK:DGE +0.90% fell 1.6%.
The banking and pharmaceutical sectors were under pressure, with shares of AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN +0.46% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN +3.20% down over 1%. Stock in major oil companies were also weighing on the index, with shares of BP /zigman2/quotes/207305210/composite BP -0.14% /zigman2/quotes/202286639/delayed UK:BP +1.51% and Royal Dutch Shell down 1.8% and 0.6%, respectively.