European markets close higher as Trump clarifies on Syria; Man Group 8% higher on earnings

  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.7 percent to the upside after a morning of mixed trade.
  • Technology surged ahead to close as the best performing sector, 1.4 percent in the green.
  • British hedge fund Man Group traded at the top of the European benchmark throughout the day, closing 8 percent higher on earnings news.

European markets closed higher on Thursday afternoon as President Donald Trump clarified his position on Syria and earnings season kicked off.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.7 percent to the upside after a morning of mixed trade. All major bourses and most business sectors were in positive territory.

Technology surged ahead in afternoon trade to close as the best performing sector, 1.4 percent in the green. British software firm Micro Focus led the sector and was trading second on the Stoxx 600, pushing up in afternoon trade to close 7.6 percent higher.

Several other sectors, including banks and insurance, closed above 1 percent.

Oil and gas stocks swung lower in late afternoon deals, despite hovering at around 0.5 percent earlier in the day. The sector closed just 0.18 percent higher, despite oil prices supported by exacerbated geopolitical tension in the Middle East. London-based offshore contractor Subsea 7 was the top performer in the sector after RBC Capital Markets upgraded its stock recommendation to "perform" from "underperform." Its shares closed over 4.8 percent higher.

By contrast, basic resources rose in the last few hours of trade after a morning of losses, closing 0.72 percent in the green. Imerys was the worst performer in the sector after its U.S. unit, Imerys America Talc, and Johnson & Johnson were ordered to pay $117 million in damages by a New Jersey state court on Wednesday. The jury ordered the companies to pay punitive damages to a man who said he had developed cancer due to his exposure to asbestos in talc-based products. Shares of Imerys closed 4.3 percent lower.

The food and beverages sector was the poorest performer, down approximately 0.3 percent. Heineken Holding fared the worst, ending the day 1.2 percent lower.

Man Group top on earnings

Looking at individual stocks, British hedge fund Man Group traded at the top of the European benchmark throughout the day, closing 8 percent higher on earnings news. The world's largest listed hedge fund said that net inflows of $4.8 billion in the first quarter of this year contributed to funds under management rising 3 percent in the same time period, although there were performance losses.

Meanwhile, Carrefour foundered near the bottom of the index throughout Thursday's trade. Its shares closed off 3.4 percent, though they hit their lowest level since October 2012 earlier in the day. The French food retailer reported weaker-than-anticipated figures for the first quarter.

British gambling technology firm Playtech announced Thursday it had agreed to buy a 70.6 percent stake in Italian betting and gaming firm Snaitech for 846 million euros ($1.05 billion), Reuters reported. The move was thought to source a large chunk of Playtech's revenue from regulated markets. Shares of the London-listed stock were 5.7 percent to the upside at the end of trade.

U.S. stocks up sharply

Stateside, stocks rose sharply on Thursday after President Donald Trump clarified his position on a possible missile attack in Syria. Companies also began reporting first quarter earnings.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 316 points, with Intel leading the index higher. The S&P 500 rose 1 percent as financials gained 1.8 percent. The Nasdaq composite advanced 1.2 percent.

Oil prices slipped from three-year highs but continued to be supported by heightened geopolitical tension in the Middle East. Brent crude futures were trading at $71.24 a barrel at 10:40 a.m. ET, down 1.1 percent from their last close. Meanwhile, U.S. WTI crude futures were down 65 cents, or 1 percent, at $66.17.

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