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European stocks close higher after ECB holds interest rates; Sopra Steria jumps 16%

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closes provisionally 0.4% higher.
  • The euro dips versus the dollar Friday to $1.1118.
  • Investors look ahead to next week's Fed decision.

European stocks closed higher Friday, after the European Central Bank suggested it could lower borrowing costs to tackle a slowdown in the euro zone.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally almost 0.4% higher, with most sectors in positive territory. Telecoms stocks were the biggest gainers, rising over 2%.

The ECB held interest rates steady on Thursday, but outgoing President Mario Draghi all but pledged to ease monetary policy further as the growth outlook deteriorates.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference Draghi said the economic outlook was "getting worse and worse," citing a weak manufacturing sector as well as uncertainty over trade and Brexit.

The euro dipped versus the dollar Friday to $1.1118.

Policymakers at the central bank are also considering other measures to support the euro zone over the coming months, including resuming quantitative easing.

The latest guidance from the ECB comes shortly before an eagerly anticipated rate decision from the Federal Reserve. The U.S. central bank is widely expected to cut rates by 25 basis points at the end of the month.

Earnings

On Wall Street, stocks climbed as strong earnings from big tech companies like Alphabet and Intel, as well as better-than-expected U.S. growth data, boosted sentiment stateside.

U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.1% in the second-quarter, data released Friday showed, a decrease from 3.1% in the previous quarter, and the weakest increase since the first quarter of 2017 when President Donald Trump took office.

Back in Europe, France's Sopra Steria Group surged to the top of the European benchmark, after the information technology company raised its organic revenue target for 2019. Shares of the Paris-listed stock rose 16% on the news.

Meanwhile, Vodafone was also among the top gainers, after announcing plans to move its mobile mast operations in 10 European markets into a new company that could potentially be listed. Shares of the U.K. telecommunications giant rose over 10%.

In terms of sectors, Europe's retail stocks dipped over 1%, with France's Kering leading the losses. The luxury goods group reported a slower-than-expected rise in second-quarter sales at Gucci in the previous session. Shares fell almost 8%.

Elsewhere, uncertainties over whether the world's two largest economies would be able to settle a long-running trade dispute kept many investors on guard.

Trade officials from the U.S. and China are scheduled to meet in Shanghai next week.