Europe Markets

European stocks close lower as UK’s May meets Trump; Booker surges 15%


European markets closed lower on Friday, after strong gains earlier this week, with investors digesting corporate earnings and fluctuations in currency markets.

Booker, Tesco shares rise

The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 ended 0.3 percent lower with most sectors trading in negative territory.

Autos stocks were the worst performers, down by 0.92 percent after President Donald Trump's hawkish remarks on trade tariffs for the sector.

Banking stocks were also lower, down by 0.82 percent. The Italian bank UniCredit was more than 5.1 percent lower after Italian media reports, not verified by CNBC, said its vice chairman confirmed the bank was not selling its stake in Mediobanca. The lender is also starting its capital increase earlier than planned, on February 6, according to the reports.

The Finnish ship technology firm Wartsila ended near the top of the European benchmark after reporting better-than-expected profits and new orders in the last quarter.

Booker Group was at the top of the European benchmark, jumping 15.9 percent. Tesco said it is buying the cash and carry wholesale supplier for about £3.7 billion ($4.7 billion). The British supermarket chain also closed higher on Friday, up by more than 9.2 percent. The acquisition news sent the broader retail sector higher.

Shares of the Danish telecom company TDC dropped more than 4.4 percent on Friday after news that its Nordic rival Telia is no longer buying the firm due to legal, financial and political hurdles, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average continued slightly lower after the blue chips index had surpassed the psychologically important 20,000 mark on Wednesday.

UBS beats expectations

The Swiss bank UBS delivered 738 million Swiss francs ($737.3 million) of fourth-quarter net profit, coming in short of last year's comparable 949 Swiss francs, but clearly ahead of a Reuters consensus forecast of 339 million Swiss francs. Its shares were down by 4.5 percent Friday.

BT reported an operating profit of 729 million pounds ($913.58) for its third quarter. Its reported revenue went up by 32 percent. The firm announced that the head of its European division is leaving after an accounting scandal that sank its shares earlier this week. Its shares began reversing the downward trend on Friday.

Oil prices edged lower on Friday, paring gains made earlier in the day, as investors turned their attention to rising production in the U.S. and away from OPEC and other producers' commitment to curbing global oversupply.

Brent crude traded at around $55.01 a barrel shortly after the European close on Friday, down 2.17 percent, while U.S. crude was around $52.71 a barrel, down 2.01 percent.

Apart from looking at several corporate earnings reports, investors were also focused on Washington where U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will meet U.S. President Donald Trump. May said Thursday that "opposites attract" as she called for a strengthening in the "special relationship" with the U.S.

Two other world leaders are meeting this Friday. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is receiving France's President Francois Hollande in Berlin to discuss the future of the European Union.

Data released Friday showed lending to companies and households moving higher in the euro zone at the end of last year.

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