Markets

European stocks close higher as investors monitor earnings

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally 0.2 percent higher, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet President Donald Trump.
  • Leaders of North and South Korea pledged to jointly eliminate the risk of war and work together.

European stocks closed higher on Friday, as investors monitored another batch of corporate earnings.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally 0.2 percent higher, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

Europe's technology stocks led the gains, up 0.8 percent amid earnings news. Consultancy giant Capgemini was the top sectoral performer after it reported upbeat first-quarter figures. Kepler Chevreux then raised its target price for the stock to 116 euros from 112 euros. Shares of Capgemini were up more than more than 6.6 percent on the news.

Meanwhile, banks stocks were off nearly 0.2 percent. RBS reported stronger-than-anticipated first-quarter earnings shortly before the opening bell, though shares slipped almost 1.5 percent amid news the Edinburgh-headquartered lender is awaiting a multi-billion dollar fine from the Department of Justice.

Looking at individual stocks, Electrolux posted a surprise fall in first-quarter core operating profit on Friday. The Swedish firm also issued a warning on raw material costs over the coming months. Shares of Europe's largest home appliances maker were off more than 11 percent.

Elsewhere, French firm Ses rose near the top of the European benchmark on Friday afternoon, soaring almost 10 percent after a first-quarter earnings beat.

ECB holds interest rates steady

Britain's economy slowed to its weakest quarter of activity in more than five years on Friday. The Office of National Statistics published data which showed a sharp contraction in construction, as well as weaker manufacturing growth and consumer spending power, had all contributed to GDP growth of 0.1 percent in the first three months of 2018.

Stateside, stocks dropped amid earnings, with Exxon Mobil slipping into the red and Amazon pulling back from a record high. The U.S. economy slowed in the first quarter, with gross domestic product increasing 2.3 percent.

Traders are still weary of the potential for a full-blown trade war. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet President Donald Trump on Friday, and trade will be one of the topics on the agenda.

Meanwhile, investors are likely to still be mulling over the European Central Bank's (ECB) latest meeting of the Governing Council. At its April meeting, the ECB maintained its current stance on interest rates, as widely expected by markets and chose to reaffirm its ultra-easy monetary stimulus.