European equities wrapped up another week of gains on Friday, led by advances in travel stocks after a positive update from US drugmaker Pfizer on its pill for Covid-19 and amid persistent optimism about earnings season.
The Irish market ended largely flat on Friday as gains made by travel stocks and banks were balanced out by declines in some of the index’s heavyweight shares.
Bank of Ireland ended the week at €5.25, almost 2 per cent higher over the day. Chief executive Francesca McDonagh said she expected the lender to return to full private ownership next year, making it the first to do so among the State's three surviving bailed-out banks. That came following the Government's announcement on Friday that it has raised €249 million reducing its stake in the bank from 13.9 per cent to 9.3 per cent since late June.
AIB was flat, gaining less than half a percentage point to close the week at €2.36.
Elsewhere, Ryanair shares jumped just under 3 per cent, reflecting a broader bump in travel stocks on the news that Pfizer's Covid-19 antiviral pill cut the risk of developing severe disease by 89 per cent.
Kerry Group stocks fell 1.39 per cent to €113.50, while Kingspan ended almost 3 per cent lower at €101.75. Glanbia was also off, ending the day at €13.44, more than 3.3 per cent lower on the day.
London's FTSE 100 ended higher on Friday, led by banks and energy stocks, while British Airways parent IAG jumped on recovery hopes despite warning of a big loss in 2021.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 gained 0.3 per cent to record its highest close since February 2020, with oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell up 1.7 per cent and 1.5 per cent, as crude prices extended gains for the second session.
The banking sector rose 1.1 per cent, rebounding from its worst session in over a month in the prior session, despite the UK’s 10-year government bond yields recording a one-month low after a surprise decision by the Bank of England on Thursday to hold off on raising interest rates.
IAG gained 6.1 per cent after the Aer Lingus owner said its is “very optimistic” about the reopening of transatlantic travel and planning to ramp up capacity on those routes next year, after reporting big loss in 2021.
Other British travel stocks such as Wizz Air and Easyjet, gained 2.8 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.
Britain’s THG gained 3.9 per cent after investment management company Blackrock disclosed its 5.37 per cent stake in the online consumer brands company on Thursday.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended flat, but clocked 1.7 per cent in weekly gains, its fifth consecutive week in the green.
European travel stocks jumped 1.4 per cent as investors across the globe cheered Pfizer's trial of an experimental antiviral pill for Covid-19. The news lifted shares of Swiss duty free retailer Dufry by 10.1 per cent, to its best day since November 9th, 2020, while also pushing down shares of AstraZeneca.
On Friday, France’s benchmark CAC 40 index breached the 7,000 points barrier for the first time ever, and was up 0.8 per cent.
The blue-chip index was led by gains in Kering, Hermes and L'Oreal.
Germany’s Dax reversed early declines to scale fresh peaks, as investors shrugged off disappointing industrial output data in Europe’s biggest economy.
Gains in the Stoxx 600 were led by Allegro, which surged 10.6 per cent after the Polish e-commerce group agreed to buy Czech online retailer Mall Group for €881 million.
Spain's CaixaBank also rose 1.6 per cent after saying it had sold its entire 9.92 per cent stake in Austrian bank Erste Group for €1.5 billion. Erste added 5 per cent.
Wall Street’s main indexes hit record highs in a broad-based rally on Friday as data showing strong jobs growth in October, coupled with Pfizer’s Covid-19 pill update, bolstered sentiment about economic growth.
Ten of the 11 major S&P sectors advanced, with three of them gaining more than 1 per cent each. The Labor Department’s report showed US employment increased more than expected last month as Covid-19 infections over the summer subsided, although worker shortages continued to boost wage growth, with annual hourly earnings increasing to 4.9 per cent in October.
Pfizer surged 7.9 per cent after the drug maker's experimental antiviral pill for Covid-19 cut by 89 per cent the risk of developing severe disease. Shares of Merck slipped 9.6 per cent, dragging the S&P healthcare sector lower.
Travel stocks rose following Pfizer's announcement, with the S&P 1500 Airlines index climbing 6.5 per cent and cruise operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise rising about 9 per cent each.
Among earnings-driven moves, Expedia jumped 14.5 per cent after the online travel agency posted upbeat third-quarter revenue, while Pinterest climbed 7.1 per cent on a strong fourth-quarter revenue forecast. – Additional reporting: Reuters, Bloomberg