Markets

European markets close higher as euro area economic data shows coronavirus toll

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 pared earlier gains to provisionally close up 0.5%.
  • Basic resources led the gains, nearly 3% higher, while retail stocks dropped 0.4%.
  • The transmission rate for the coronavirus remained below the key threshold of 1 in Germany following the initial easing of lockdown measures, the Robert Koch Institute for Disease Control said Thursday.

European markets closed slightly higher on Friday, as investors monitored news about efforts to reopen economies and digested harrowing economic data.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 pared earlier gains to provisionally close up 0.5%. Basic resources led the gains, nearly 3% higher, while retail stocks dropped 0.4%.

The transmission rate for the coronavirus remained below the key threshold of 1 in Germany following the initial easing of lockdown measures, the Robert Koch Institute for Disease Control said Thursday.

France has argued that all nations should have equal access to any potential coronavirus vaccine developed by pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, after the CEO indicated that the U.S. would likely be prioritized.

However, the initial surge in market sentiment in Europe was dampened by economic data. Euro zone GDP (gross domestic product) plunged 3.8% quarter-on-quarter across the first three months of the year, according to a flash estimate from the EU's statistics agency on Friday.

Further official data published Friday revealed that German GDP (gross domestic product) shrank by 2.2% in the first quarter compared to the final three months of 2019, the sharpest quarterly decline for Europe's largest economy since the financial crisis.

Asian markets were little changed Friday after China's industrial output rose 3.9% year on year in April, according to data released by the country's National Bureau of Statistics, its first expansion of the year so far.

Stateside, Dow futures fell more than 200 points ahead of the opening bell on Friday after a record plunge in U.S. retail sales and a ratcheting up of tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Biggest movers

GEA Group shares jumped by more than 9% by mid-afternoon after the German food technology company posted strong first-quarter earnings, while British housebuilder Hammerson surged by 10%.

At the other end of the European benchmark, U.K. retailer W.H. Smith tumbled 8.8% and Swiss building materials manufacturer LafargeHolcim slid 6% lower.