European stocks close higher; retailer Next hits record high as JD Sports falls 23%

Jenni Reid
Holly Ellyatt

This is CNBC's live blog covering European markets.

European stocks closed higher Thursday following two downbeat sessions amid uncertainty over the trajectory for central bank rate cuts.

The Stoxx 600 index closed up 0.7%, coming off the back of a nearly 1% decline over the first two sessions of the year. In sector moves, banking stocks climbed 1.8% while technology fell 0.4%.

European markets

TICKERCOMPANYPRICECHANGE%CHANGE
.FTSEFTSE 1007,995.58+71.78+0.91%
.GDAXIDAX17,930.32UNCHUNCH
.FCHICAC 40 Index8,010.83UNCHUNCH
.FTMIBFTSE MIB 33,764.15+50.21+0.15%
.IBEXIBEX 35 Idx10,686.00UNCHUNCH

Retail stocks fell 0.8% as trading updates painted a mixed picture. Clothing store Next rose to a record high after lifting its full-year profit outlook for a fifth time, despite flagging potential 2024 risks including stock delays from trade disruption. Shares of the London-listed stock closed up 5.8%.

However, Britain's JD Sports plunged 23% as it said late-year sales were slightly below its forecast. Its gross margin rate for the period was also below expectations, which it attributed to an "elevated level of promotional activity" during the peak trading season, and cautious consumer spending.

French inflation figures meanwhile showed consumer prices rising 3.7% year-on-year in December, a slight rise from 3.5% in November. Statistics agency Insee said the increase was driven by energy and services, and that manufactured products and food inflation should slow down.

Euro zone composite purchasing managers' index figures were also out Thursday, showing a continuation of the contraction in output that began in June.

Stateside, investors are monitoring releases on initial jobless claims and private payrolls. U.S. stocks were trading higher on Thursday as market participants looked to recover from an early year slump.

China led losses in Asia-Pacific markets, followed by Japan stocks which resumed trading after an extended New Year's holiday.

Thu, Jan 4 2024 9:41 AM EST

U.S. stocks open mixed; Nasdaq falls for fifth straight day

U.S. stocks were mixed in early deals Thursday, with the Nasdaq Composite falling for its fifth straight day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% in early deals while the S&P 500 inched marginally higher. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, fell 0.3%.

— Karen Gilchrist

Thu, Jan 4 2024 8:31 AM EST

UK PM Sunak says 'working assumption' is for election in second half of 2024

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak departs from number 10, Downing Street ahead of the weekly PMQ session in the House of Commons on December 06, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Thursday his "working assumption" is that a general election will be held in the second half of 2024, the BBC reported.

The government can choose when to call an election, but one must be held before Jan. 28, 2025 under the current five-year term limit. Elections are typically held in the spring or summer, but the most recent vote took place in Dec. 2019 amid a political battle over Brexit negotiations.

Sunak's ruling Conservative Party will face opposition from the Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, which has led in polls since late 2021 and is seeking to win a parliamentary majority. Other parties looking to gain seats in the 650-member House of Commons include the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish National Party.

Sunak became Conservative Party leader, and therefore prime minister, in Oct. 2022.

— Jenni Reid

Thu, Jan 4 2024 7:38 AM EST

Maersk shares climb further despite JPMorgan downgrade

Shipping giant Maersk continued its run as one of the top performing stocks of the new year, climbing 3.3%.

That was despite JPMorgan downgrading its rating on the stock to "neutral" from "overweight" as analysts said higher spot freight rates due to volatility in the Red Sea would only provide a "one-off boost," according to Reuters. It raised its 2024 results estimates but held its 2025 forecast.

Goldman Sachs analysts on Wednesday upgraded the stock, noting "positive second-order effects" on other routes and forecasting a "'muddle-through' scenario instead of deepening price competition" for 2024.

See Chart...
Maersk share price.

— Jenni Reid

Thu, Jan 4 2024 4:20 AM EST

Next hits all-time high, warns of Suez disruption

A Next Plc clothing store in Southend, UK, on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. Next release Q4 sales figures on Jan. 4. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

British clothing retailer Next climbed 4.8% to a record high in early trade, after hiking its profit forecast for the year ending January 2024 the fifth time.

The company said full-price sales were up 5.7% in the nine weeks to Dec. 30, well above its previous guidance of 2%.

It expects a boost from wages catching up with inflation in 2024, and reduced input inflation into its products, but flagged potential headwinds from a softer employment market and ongoing trade flow disruption in the Red Sea, which could delay stock deliveries.

"Renowned for its ability to adapt to the times, Next has continued to reap the rewards from focusing on their online sales side of the business, intelligent acquisitions (additional equity stake in Reiss) and a reduction in net debt by £100m," said Mark Crouch, market analyst at eToro, in an emailed note.

"All of which have contributed to an excellent trading update from the UK retailer and may go some way to pacifying recession fears in the UK economy." 

See Chart...
Next share price.

— Jenni Reid

Wed, Jan 3 2024 9:19 PM EST

Caixin China December services PMI expands at fastest rate since July

A private survey showed services activity continued to grow in China in December, with foreign demand for the country's services also rising.

The Caixin China General Services Business Activity Index rose to 52.9 in December compared with 51.5 in November, climbing for a 12th straight month. The survey also noted that the rate of growth was the fastest since July.

"Growth momentum across China's service sector continued to revive at the end of 2023," according to the survey report. "Employment registered a subtle uptick as businesses exercised caution in hiring. But the slight expansion was sufficient to absorb new orders, keeping backlogs of work unchanged."

A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion in activity, while a reading below that level points to a contraction.

— Shreyashi Sanyal

Wed, Jan 3 2024 6:56 PM EST

CNBC Pro: These 9 stocks are cheaper than the S&P 500 — and look set for big earnings growth in 2024

Stocks soared in 2023, as investors have been buoyed by the narrative of an end to rate hikes in 2024.

Tech stocks led the charge as trends such as artificial intelligence boomed.

The S&P 500 rallied 24%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ended 2023 up 43.4% in its best year since 2020.

Still, there are some stocks trading at cheaper valuations than the broader S&P 500, and which analysts expect will have strong earnings growth in 2024.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read about them here.

— Weizhen Tan

Wed, Jan 3 2024 6:56 PM EST

CNBC Pro: Deutsche Bank names the stock that'll be the 'last man standing' in autonomous driving

Building the technology that powers driverless cars is proving to be incredibly difficult for car markers.

Most recently, Cruise, GM's robotaxi service, was shut down in San Francisco over safety issues.

Given such a backdrop, Deutsche Bank has named one stock as a "rare secular growth story" in the sector because the company's technology can find buyers among any global automaker seeking to add self-driving capabilities.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Ganesh Rao

2 Hours Ago

European markets: Here are the opening calls

European markets are set to open mixed Monday.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index is expected to open 41 points lower at 7,952, Germany's DAX up 23 points at 17,921, France's CAC 4 points higher at 8,004 and Italy's FTSE MIB down 8 points at 33,112, according to data from IG. 

Data releases include Israeli inflation figures for March. There are no major earnings releases.

— Holly Ellyatt

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