European shares end higher on hopes of pandemic plateauing
Markets report: Cyclicals tech, autos and banks lead gains
An in-camera double exposure of money and traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchang. Photograph: Mark Abramson/The New York Times
European shares rose on Thursday as daily coronavirus death tolls in Spain and Italy eased, adding to signs that the pandemic was plateauing. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index added 0.6 per cent, climbing for the sixth time in seven days. However, US figures showing a record 22 million Americans sought unemployment benefits over the past month, with millions more filing claims last week revealing how deep the economic slump caused by the pandemic will be. US president Donald Trump plans to announce new guidelines to reopen the US economy after a month-long shutdown, joining a growing chorus of leaders around the world clamouring to reignite their economies.
Dublin’s Iseq closed 2.3 per cent up at 5,082, roughly in line with other European bourses. Construction firms enjoyed something of a bounce after nosediving in the previous session. The bounce was also helped by a suggestion from the Construction Industry Federation that the sector should be able to gradually reopen in the first phase after the shutdown. Homebuilders Cairn Homes and Glenveagh were up 7 per cent and 10 per cent respectively while the State’s biggest landlord Ires Reit rose 2.7 per cent.
Amid further forecasts of a sluggish recovery for the travel industry, Ryanair drifted 0.4 per cent lower. AIB rose 1.5 per cent to 93 cents in line with other European financials but Bank of Ireland lost ground, closing down 0.5 per cent at €1.35. Iseq heavyweight CRH traded up 4.5 per cent at €24.86 despite grim economic numbers from the US, where it has significant operations.
Food giant Kerry, one of the strongest performers in recent weeks, was up again, rising 3.9 per cent to €103.30.
Stock markets were quiet on Thursday as investors waited nervously for the latest grim set of US economic data and prepared themselves for Friday’s Chinese GDP figures. The FTSE 100 closed the day up 30.78 points, or 0.55 per cent, at 5,628.43, spending the day barely moving. The jobs numbers from the US failed to make much impact and the UK government’s announcement on extending the country’s lockdown by three weeks came after hours.
In company news, oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell both saw shares drop again, as the low oil prices keep hitting the sector. BP was down 7.75p at 291.95p and Shell’s ‘A’ shares were down 47.8p at 1,298.2p. EasyJet updated the stock market on its future, predicting a smaller loss for the first half of the year, of between £185 million and £205 million, compared with previous forecasts of £275 million. But the messaging was overshadowed by founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou calling for the head of the chief executive and chairman over their decision to continue with Airbus orders. Shares closed down 14.8p at 588.4p.
Gains were driven by technology, autos and financial stocks, while the healthcare sector gained 2.8 per cent, powered by a 10 per cent jump in Danish food ingredients maker Chr Hansen. The company said it had not seen a negative impact from the coronavirus but rather a short-term boost in demand as consumers opt for at-home consumption such as frozen pizzas and probiotics for immune system support.
The benchmark Stoxx 600 has risen to near one-month highs since hitting a trough in March with central banks announcing a raft of stimulus measures, but analysts have warned about another sell-off with economic damage piling up and GDP estimates slashed.
French state-controlled utility EDF fell 5.8 per cent after it forecast a sharp drop in its domestic nuclear power output due to a fall in business activity caused by the health crisis. But German online fashion retailer Zalando jumped 6.2 per cent as it said it was optimistic about the second quarter after sales picked up in April.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones slipped on Thursday, giving up early gains as concerns about rough first-quarter earnings and lasting economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic offset weekly jobless claims that were better than some had feared. A 6.2 per cent fall for Boeing sent the blue-chip Dow down 1 per cent, as its European rival Airbus said it was examining requests to defer deliveries after a collapse in travel demand. The Nasdaq outperformed the broader market with Amazon and Netflix surging to record highs as sweeping stay-at-home orders drove demand for online streaming services, household essentials, groceries and cloud computing. – Additional reporting: Reuters