European markets close higher as coronavirus remains in focus; Tui up 13%

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up 0.9% as most sectors and all major bourses remained in positive territory.
  • Chinese authorities confirmed the total cases of coronavirus in the country had reached 42,638, while the death toll stood at 1,016.
  • A Chinese researcher warned the coronavirus outbreak could shave 1 percentage point off of the country’s 2020 growth rate.

European shares traded higher on Tuesday as investors continued to monitor the spread of the coronavirus and its effect on the global economy.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 briefly hit an all-time high during morning trade and closed provisionally up 0.9%. Travel stocks jumped 1.9% to lead gains as most sectors and all major bourses remained in positive territory.

The new strain of coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has infected 42,638 people and killed 1,016 across mainland China, the country's health authority said on Tuesday. However, a slowing of the rate of new cases has given global stock markets some upward momentum.

Many factories and businesses in the world's second largest economy have remained closed amid the crisis, which has led to hundreds of Chinese companies seeking billions in loans, according to Reuters. A Chinese government researcher warned on Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak could shave 1 percentage point off of the country's full-year economic growth rate in 2020, the news agency also reported.

On Wall Street, equities were mostly higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average barely above the flatline and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes both in positive territory.

Back in Europe, several EU member states were plunged into fresh political uncertainty on Monday.

In Ireland, no party managed to secure a clear majority in the country's national election, with Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael closely tied for seats in parliament. Back in 2016, Irish lawmakers took 70 days to form a new government after an inconclusive election result.

Elsewhere, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the leader of Germany's CDU party widely expected to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, announced on Monday she would not run for the top job.

Italy's fragile coalition also faced challenges on Monday, as former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose Italia Viva party is in a coalition with the 5-Star Movement and Democratic Party, threatened a no-confidence motion against his own justice minister, Reuters reported.

In corporate news, Chinese auto maker Geely announced plans to merge with sister company Volvo, with a view to list the new combined business in Hong Kong and Stockholm.

Airbus unveiled a new aircraft at the Singapore Airshow on Tuesday, designed to cut carbon emissions by 20%.

The first estimate of U.K. fourth-quarter economic growth showed that GDP (gross domestic product) was flat quarter-on-quarter in the last three months of 2019. The pound reacted positively to the embattled economy avoiding a contraction amid heightened political uncertainty, adding 0.18% against the dollar to trade at around $1.2935.

Stocks on the move

Tui shares leaped 13% after its fiscal first-quarter earnings report. The German travel company said the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max continues to weigh on profits, but losses narrowed in the first quarter, with strong demand for holidays and flights from the U.K. are expected to offset the Boeing headwind.

Daimler shares edged 1% lower after the German automaker swung to a loss in the fourth quarter of 2019 and cut its dividend.

NMC Health's London-listed stock plunged 16% after private equity firm KKR ruled at a bid for the Abu Dhabi hospital group. The stock had jumped 32% on Monday after NMC announced preliminary interest from KKR and GKSD Investment Holding, which confirmed on Tuesday that it is considering a bid.

Chipmaker AMS fell 3% despite optimistic guidance in its fourth-quarter earnings, while Michelin also dropped 3% after forecasting weaker 2020 operating income.