Markets

European markets close higher as Suez Canal blockage persists; Mining stocks up 4%

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Key Points
  • Focus is also attuned to oil prices, which rebounded overnight amid concerns that a massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal may take weeks to free up, squeezing global supply.
  • Germany's Ifo Institute business climate index rose to 96.6 in March from 92.7 in February, outstripping analyst expectations to show sentiment at its highest for almost two years.

European stocks closed higher on Friday, following global sentiment as investors focus on the outlook for growth and inflation amid advances in Covid-19 vaccine rollouts.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended up 0.91%, having earlier touched a one-week high. Mining stocks jumped more than 4% to lead gains, as all sectors and major bourses held in positive territory.

European markets received a positive handover from Asia-Pacific, where shares broadly rose during Friday's trade, led by mainland China and Japan.

Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. indexes are also indicating a higher open stateside on Friday, after Wall Street broke its recent losing streak in the previous session on the back of a rally in cyclical areas of the market. Banks led gains after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said lenders could resume buybacks and raise dividends starting at the end of June.

Focus is also attuned to oil prices, which rebounded overnight amid concerns that a massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal may take weeks to free up, squeezing global supply. Brent crude was changing hands at a fraction over $63 per barrel on Friday afternoon in Europe.

EU leaders on Thursday voiced grievances over a shortage of contracted deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine as the continent faces a third wave of infections.

The spike in infections has kept stocks on the back foot for much of the week, but hopes of a stimulus-driven economic rebound in the U.S. have offered a boost to the global growth outlook.

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On the data front, U.K. retail sales partly recovered in February, with sales volumes increasing by 2.1% month-on-month, in line with economist expectations.

Germany's Ifo Institute business climate index rose to 96.6 in March from 92.7 in February, outstripping analyst expectations to show sentiment at its highest level in almost two years.

In corporate news, German insurance giant Allianz has agreed a 2.5 billion euro ($2.94 billion) deal for Aviva's Polish unit, the British insurer announced Friday.

In terms of individual share price movement, British engineering firm Smiths Group jumped 6.3% to lead the Stoxx 600, after beating profit forecasts for the first half of the fiscal year and projected further improvement in the second half.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, Swedish home appliance company Electrolux fell 4.4%.

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