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Europe shares close higher after strong data

European shares closed higher on Friday, as growth data from the U.K. pushed the FTSE 100 higher, and euro zone consumer morale numbers improved by more than expected.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed up 0.4 percent at 1,223.39 points, with key European indexes building on strong gains in Asia, and from Thursday's trading session. However, the index still closed down 0.6 percent on the week, its first weekly loss since late last month, due to lingering concerns the U.S. central bank could start trimming its asset purchases next month.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed up unofficially 0.7 percent after upbeat estimates for second quarter GDP boosted investor confidence, and pushed sterling higher. Growth came in at 0.7 percent on the quarter.

There was encouraging euro zone data too, with consumer morale improving by more than expected in August, jumping to its highest level in two years, according to the European Commission.

Consumer confidence in the 17 countries using the euro rose to -15.6 points in August, from -17.4 points in July, beating market expectations. After the news, the German DAX and French CAC 40 provisionally closed higher by 0.2 and 03 percent respectively.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
FTSE
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DAX
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CAC 40
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IBEX 35
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In the U.S., Wall Street was mixed on Friday, after new home sales data suggested the housing recovery may be slowing.

A surge in Microsoft shares provided markets with a lift early on. Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer shocked markets on Friday by announcing he would step down within 12 months, ending a tenure marked by the software giant's declining dominance and struggles to keep pace with its competitors. Markets applauded the news by sending Microsoft's shares surging by 6 percent.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei increased by over 2 percent, South Korea's Kospi rebounded from a one-month low and Australia's S&P ASX 200 hit a one-week high. However, the Shanghai Composite reversed earlier gains to hit a two-week low.

Meanwhile, the world's top central bankers are meeting in Jackson Hole in the U.S., although Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and ECB Chairman Mario Draghi will not be attending this year. The annual event focuses on U.S. and global economic issues.

In stocks news, shares of Danish engineering group FLSmidth were higher by 9.23 percent after it announced job cuts and several writedowns. It said it would pull back from 20 locations, after the outlook for mining capital expenditure deteriorated further in the second quarter.

Shares of Croda International received a bounce after it was upgraded to "buy" from "hold" by Deutsche Bank; shares provisionally closed up 4.28 percent.

Shares of German lender Commerzbank rose by 2.62 percent, after a report suggested the German government could sell its 17 percent stake to another European lender.

Shares of oil exploration and production company Afren fell 0.2 percent after its net profit was hit, mainly by impairment costs.

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