European stocks notch new highs as Daimler earnings lift car makers

In Dublin, Bank of Ireland jumps as it enter talks to buy KBC’s Irish unit

European stocks ended at a record high on Friday, marking its seventh straight week of gains, after strong US and China economic data spurred optimism about a speedy global recovery, while upbeat results from Germany's Daimler boosted car makers.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.8 per cent. Leading regional peers, Germany’s Dax gained 1.3 per cent to hit an all-time high, while UK’s Ftse 100 was up 0.5 per cent, closing at over one-year highs. Global stock markets scaled record highs after data showed China’s economic recovery quickened sharply in the first quarter and US retail sales rose by the most in 10 months in March.

"The good news continues to flow of both the corporate and economic fronts, after a very good start to the reporting season by the banks over the past few days. Now the focus becomes broader, taking in a wider range of sectors," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.


Bank of Ireland jumped 8.4 to €4.37 after it reached a deal with Belgian financial group KBC to explore the sale of most of KBC's Irish unit. KBC Group is planning to quit the Republic after more than four decades, reducing the number of retail banks in the country to just three. KBC's exit also boosted the other main player, AIB, which saw its shares rise nearly 6 per cent to €2.33. The third banking force, Permanent TSB, also rose, by 4.6 per cent to €1.13.


The US's massive $1.9 trillion Covid rescue and green energy spending package has boosted insulation manufacturer Kingspan, which has considerable business interests in the US. Its share rose 2.5 per cent to €74.52.

Shares in Kerry Group fell marginally after it suspended talks with its main shareholder, Kerry Co-op, about the possible sale of its dairy and consumer foods business in Ireland.

Ryanair rose to more than €16 again amid a more upbeat assessment of the likely reopening of Europe's hospitality and travel sector. Smurfit Kappa consolidated this week's gain, rising a further 1.8 per cent to €41.78. The packaging group was buoyed by strong US and China economic data.


German car and truck maker Daimler rose 2.7 per cent as higher vehicle prices and strong demand in China helped it post a better-than-expected surge in quarterly operating profit.

The wider automobiles and parts index gained 2.1 per cent to lead gains among European sectors. Data showed new car registrations jumped 87.3 per cent in March in the European Union. While the Stoxx 600 marked its longest weekly winning streak in nearly three years, up 1 per cent, moves this week have been tight-ranged, with most European bourses holding near pre-pandemic levels.

Lancome maker L'Oreal slipped 1.8 per cent on disappointment at figures from the company's consumer products division despite overall strong group results. Next week, eyes will be on the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday.

“The ECB will look through any temporary increases in headline inflation and will not accept any increases in bond yields unless they are the result of improved growth prospects,” ING said in a note.


London’s Ftse 100 ended above the 7,000 mark on Friday for the first time since the pandemic pummelled risk assets last year and gained for the second consecutive week as falling coronavirus infections lifted optimism about a stronger economic recovery.

The blue-chip index climbed 0.5 per cent, led by gains in precious metal and base metal miners, which rose 1.7 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively, and heavyweight banking stocks that stand to benefit from an economic reopening gained 1.7 per cent.

Among other stocks, Man Group rose 0.5 per cent after the hedge fund manager said it expected customers to put in more money in the coming quarters as client engagement was positive this year.

Ashmore Group dropped 3.4 per cent to the bottom of the Ftse 250 index after its assets under management fell by $3.1 billion during the first three months of 2021, as market volatility hurt performance.


The S&P 500 and the Dow hit record highs on Friday after Morgan Stanley wrapped up bumper quarterly earnings reports from big US banks, while optimism about a solid economic rebound put the main indexes on course for weekly gains.

Nine of the 11 S&P indexes were higher, with only the information technology and the energy indexes edging lower after outperforming in the previous session.

The benchmark S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow are on course for their fourth straight week of gains, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq is less than 1 per cent below its own all-time closing high on the back of upbeat economic data and a solid start to the first-quarter corporate earnings season.

Morgan Stanley reported a 150 per cent jump in quarterly profit on Friday, joining JPMorgan Chase , Goldman Sachs and Bank of America in reinforcing hopes of a swift economic recovery. Shares of JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo rose 0.7-2.4 per cent.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times