Europe Markets

European stocks close higher as investors monitor omicron variant, bitcoin volatility

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally ended up around 1.4%, with travel and leisure stocks jumping over 4.1% to lead gains.
  • Almost all sectors and major bourses closed the session in positive territory.

LONDON — European stocks closed higher on Monday as investors closely monitored developments around the omicron Covid variant and bitcoin volatility.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally ended up around 1.4%, with travel and leisure stocks jumping over 4.1% to lead gains. Almost all sectors and major bourses closed the session in positive territory.

While European markets made a positive start to the trading week on Monday, the picture is more mixed at a global level.

Stocks in Asia-Pacific dropped on Monday as investors monitored bitcoin prices after they fell sharply over the weekend. Meanwhile, oil prices jumped more than 2.8% in European afternoon trading hours after mostly falling last week on Covid uncertainty and the OPEC+ plan to increase output in January.

Stateside, U.S. stocks were higher after a losing week on Wall Street as investors ditched equities amid concerns over the new omicron Covid variant and the Federal Reserve's move to tighten policy. At least 15 U.S. states have detected the omicron coronavirus variant now.

The heavy selling in technology stocks last Friday extended to cryptocurrencies with bitcoin prices volatile throughout the weekend. Bitcoin traded around $57,000 on Friday morning, but by Saturday had fallen to around $43,000. By Sunday the world's largest cryptocurrency had recovered some of its losses, but it still traded below the key $50,000 level; it was last trading around $48,446.

On the data front in Europe, German industrial orders plunged 6.9% month-on-month on October, well below the consensus forecast of a 0.5% decline, as weak foreign demand weighed heavy,

The euro zone Sentix index for December fell to 13.5 from 18.3 in November, as renewed uncertainty over the spread of Covid-19 and associated restrictions weighed on investor confidence across the bloc.

In terms of individual share price movement, Polish courier InPost climbed more than 9.5% after several top executives bought substantial quantities of shares.

Toward the bottom of the European blue chip index, Just Eat Takeaway shares fell 4.6% on concerns that new European Commission regulations on gig economy jobs could hit food delivery companies. Bernstein downgraded the company's stock to "market-perform" from "outperform" and cut its share price target.

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— CNBC's Pippa Stevens and Weizhen Tan contributed to this market report.