European markets close flat as Brussels looks to reduce tensions with Italy

Key Points
  • Money managers monitored a number of political events, including the Italian budget and Brexit.
  • Optimism over Italy's budget was boosted by warmer words from the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs.

European stocks pared earlier losses on Friday after Europe's economy commissioner said no decision had yet been taken on Italy's controversial budget plan.

European markets

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended a shade lower, 0.06 percent down as Friday's closing bell rang.

In terms of country performance, the FTSE 100 in the U.K., the Swiss SMI, Spain's IBEX were all higher, while France's CAC 40, Germany's DAX and Italy's FTSE MIB pared losses but finished lower.

Auto stocks was the worst-performing sector amid corporate news. Michelin fell 11.28  percent, its worst day in seven years, after announcing lower full-year forecasts.

Europe's oil and gas stocks were above the flat-line. Norway's Aker BP, partly owned by oil major BP, was the top sectoral performer, after the company reported stronger-than-anticipated third-quarter operating profit forecasts. Shares of the Olso-listed stock rose 4.13 percent.

In other corporate news, Intercontinental shares took a hit today after the company delivered weaker-than-expected revenue. The British hotel group however painted a positive picture for the rest of the year, saying its Chinese business is on track to achieve its best ever results.

Brexit talks

Money managers are monitoring a number of regional political events Friday morning.

The Italian government has defended its 2019 budget priorities after the European Commission sent a letter to Rome, arguing that the financial plans seems to point to a "particularly serious non-compliance with the budgetary policy obligations laid down" in European rules. Italy must reply to the European Commission by Monday.

Shares in Italian banks sank on the latest row between Rome and Brussels. Ubi Banca fell 2.75 percent and UniCredit dropped 0.96 percent over the day.

Italian stocks and bonds fought back from earlier in Friday afternoon trade however, after European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, Pierre Moscovici, said he wanted to reduce tensions between Brussels and Rome.

European leaders and the British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday that they are working hard to overcome the ongoing impasse in Brexit talks. However, May's idea to extend the transition process has sparked a wave of criticism back in London, where some lawmakers want to see a break-up from the EU as soon as possible.

On the data front, U.K. public sector net borrowing figures, excluding banks, was down 35 percent from April to September compared to a year ago.

In Asia, stocks were also mixed after China reported its growth rate for the third quarter of the year. The 6.5 percent year-on-year figure came in below expectations and is the weakest pace seen since the first quarter of 2009.