Europe Markets

Europe ends mostly higher; oil eyed; Home Retail tanks


European equities closed mostly higher on Friday, as investors digested the latest news from individual stocks and shook off concerns over the fluctuating oil price.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index ended 0.3 percent higher after oscillating between positive and negative territory during trade. On the week however, the Stoxx 600 slipped 0.15 percent. Almost all sectors closed higher.

Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.2 percent at the close, while its European counterparts held their gains. France's CAC posted gains of 0.4 percent, while Germany's DAX jumped 0.6 percent.

Commodities fluctuate

Helping steer markets were the rises and dips in the oil price, which jumped during the session as talk continued to brew over possible measures at an April 17 meeting, featuring OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC producers, including Russia.

However in late trade oil prices came under slight pressure, with Brent crude trading roughly flat, at $41.52, while U.S. crude hovered just above $40. This impacted oil and gas stocks, with Seadrill and Shell closing in the red, while Tullow Oil jumped over 4 percent.

Metal prices were under pressure on Friday, which weighed on mining stocks. Antofagasta slipped over 4 percent, with a slip in gold and silver prices causing Randgold Resources and Fresnillo to close sharply lower. Anglo American and Glencore however finished sharply up.

Home Retail tanks

U.S. markets were trading higher on Friday, as a rise in financials boosted investor sentiment. Asian markets finished mostly higher Friday, following a jump in oil prices, however a stronger yen continued to weigh on Japan's shares.

Back in Europe, investors were keeping an eye on banks on Friday, with one of the Stoxx 600's best performers being Standard Chartered, up 7.6 percent, while one of its worst performers was Nordea Bank. Shares sank over 5 percent after Societe Generale cut the stock rating to sell.

Banca Popolare di Milano fluctuated during the session, ending 0.5 percent down after the bank listed European Central Bank conditions for a merger with Banco Popolare, which closed up 2.5 percent. The ECB said a merged group would need strong capital position and asset quality from the start, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, South African group, Steinhoff International said it was backing away from making an offer on Home Retail group just before its deadline, giving U.K. supermarket Sainsbury's more opportunity, according to Reuters. On the news, Sainsbury's shares spiked before sharply slipping almost 3 percent. Home Retail tanked even further, off 9.9 percent.

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On Friday, Porsche's former CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking was acquitted of alleged market manipulation. Shares in the luxury automaker closed up almost 4 percent.

Italian insurer Generali was off more than 1.5 percent after the company reported a 21.6 percent increase in its 2015 net profit, which just missed analyst expectations.

Swiss luxury goods group Richemont jumped 1.5 percent after the company announced that its co-chief executive Bernard Fornas was to retire at the end of March, and Cyrille Vigneron, the CEO of its Cartier business, would become a member of the Senior Executive Committee.

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Following a slew of news from central banks this week, Russia's central bank chose to hold interest rates steady on Friday, warning that inflation risks remained "high" and the oil price rise could be "unsustainable."

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