Virus fears hit European shares as UK stocks rise on reopening hopes
Iseq moves into positive territory on upbeat corporate news
In the US, the S&P 500 and the Dow slipped as a surge in coronavirus cases threatened to derail a fragile economic recovery. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP
European stocks ended higher on Friday, with the Stoxx 600 clocking its third straight week of gains as a jump in commodity-linked stocks helped to counter worries about rising coronavirus cases and an impasse over new US stimulus.
In the US, the S&P 500 and the Dow slipped with a surge in coronavirus cases threatening to derail a fragile economic recovery.
Conversely, London’s Ftse 100 inched higher on the prospect of easing coronavirus restrictions, optimism for a vaccine and hopes of a Brexit trade deal.
The Iseq index rose and closed the session ahead by 0.5 per cent.
Swiss-Irish baked goods group Aryzta was among the high fliers. It rose 9.1 per cent to finish at 60 cents per share, after news emerged that its chief executive, Kevin Toland, was leaving the business and Paul Singer’s Elliott management made a fresh takeover bid for the group.
The banks performed well following the release of a Central Bank report that suggested company insolvencies were not yet surging and were actually behind where they were this time last year.
Bank of Ireland closed ahead by 2.5 per cent at €2.65 per share. AIB finished up 3.6 per cent at €1.32. It was also boosted by news that it was in exclusive talks to take over Goodbody Stockbrokers, which it previously owned before the last crash.
Travel software firm Datalex rose 9.3 per cent to 54 cents per share after it raised its full-year forecasts.
Miners including Rio Tinto, Glencore and BHP rose 1.2-2.4 per cent as metal prices rallied on continued strong demand in top consumer China and potential supply disruptions.
For the Ftse 100, Sage Group was the big spoilsport of the day, helping to pull the index down as its shares lost 13.4 per cent of their value. The software giant took a £17 million provision for bad debt because of the pandemic and reported a nearly 4 per cent drop in operating profit.
Shares in Centrica dropped 1.1 per cent after union members at its subsidiary, British Gas, prepared to vote on whether they should go out on strike over Christmas. Unions accuse the energy supplier of threatening to fire and rehire 20,000 workers to force them to accept changes to pay and conditions.
Frankfurt’s Dax and Paris’s Cac both rose 0.4 per cent.
Italy’s BPER Banca rose 4.1 per cent after its top investor threw its weight behind the idea of a merger with rival Banco BPM, which gained 3.7 per cent.
German fashion etailer Zalando edged up 1.1 per cent after its chief financial officer forecast an acceleration in growth next year.
The oil and gas sector also jumped 1.5 per cent as crude prices were buoyed by successful Covid-19 vaccine trials.
Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG, said European markets were gradually gaining ground, with vaccine hopes being counteracted by US stimulus and lockdown fears.
The Nasdaq edged 0.2 per cent higher, boosted by a rise in shares of stay-at-home darlings Zoom and Amazon.
All major S&P sectors slipped, barring utilities and healthcare.
Microchip Technology jumped 5 per cent after the chipmaker’s quarterly profit and revenue came in above estimates. The Philadelphia SE semiconductor index gained 0.7 per cent.
Pfizer rose 1.2 per cent as the company said it had applied to US health regulators for emergency-use authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine.
Apparel and home fashion retailer Ross Stores gained 1 per cent after its quarterly sales topped expectations.
Gilead fell 1 per cent as a World Health Organisation panel advised against the use of Remdesivir for patients hospitalised with Covid-19, saying there was no evidence the drug improved survival chances or reduced the need for ventilation.