European equities finish on a high note amid strong earnings; trade concerns ease

Key Points
  • The pan-European STOXX 600 provisionally closed up 0.52 percent, with almost all of the region's sectors ending the session higher.
  • Earnings gave markets a boost during the course of Europe's trade.
  • Investors are also tracking comments on trade and politics after the U.K. decided to expel 23 Russian diplomats.

European equities finished Thursday's session in the black as investors digested the latest earnings and data news, boosted by a positive performance on Wall Street.

The pan-European STOXX 600 provisionally closed up 0.52 percent, with almost all of the region's sectors ending the session higher. The only sectors to see some pressure by the close were energy, basic resources, and telecoms.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed up 0.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 jumped 0.65 percent and Germany's DAX rose 0.88 percent. Stocks fluctuated during trade, but received a boost after Wall Street extended gains during Thursday's session.

More earnings trickle in

Insurance was the top performing sector Thursday, closing up 1.58 percent, on the back of earnings news. Generali shot up to the top of the sector, popping 2.5 percent after announcing an increase in its dividend and posting a record annual operating profit. Munich Re also rose 2.78 percent after the insurer raised its profit forecast for this year and announced a 1 billion euro ($1.24 billion) share buyback.

Don't know what will happen with interest rates: Generali CEO

Looking across the European benchmark, Spirax-Sarco was the STOXX 600's best performer, closing up 6 percent, after the company reported better-than-expected full-year figures. On the other hand, Dufry shares fell to the bottom of the index, falling over 6 percent, with traders citing a lack of clarity on its dividend.

Lufthansa said Thursday that higher fuel prices are set to impact its earnings in 2018, which sent the stock 1.4 percent lower in early trade. But it recovered during trade to close up 2.5 percent.

H&M missed market expectations once again by reporting lower sales in the first quarter. The stock slipped 3.3 percent.

Near the end of Europe's trading day, U.K. broadcaster Sky confirmed it had entered into a confidentiality agreement with Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox and Walt Disney. This comes after Comcast offered a rival bid of $31 billion in February. Shares of Sky initially rose following the news, before closing just below the flatline.

Trade concerns in focus 

U.S. markets traded higher Thursday, yet markets showed signs of turbulence during the morning session as trade concerns lingered. According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is considering implementing tariffs on at least $30 billion of Chinese imports as part of a package of anti-China measures. Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Trump could impose tariffs on $60 billion of such goods.

On the data front, the IEA said in its latest oil market report that Venezuela is likely to remain the biggest risk factor among leading oil producers. Oil prices were slightly higher by Europe's close.

Investors are also keeping an eye on politics after the U.K. decided to expel 23 Russian diplomats — the biggest expulsion since the Cold War. On Thursday, news emerged out of Russia that in response to the U.K.'s move, it would soon expel British diplomats. On Thursday, leading figures from France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. went on to issue a joint statement which condemned the chemical attack on a Russian former double agent in England.

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