Trade optimism, upbeat earnings send European shares to four-year peak

Trade optimism, upbeat earnings send European shares to four-year peak

NEW YORK,. European shares rose for a fifth straight session yesterday to hit fresh four year highs as investors cheered signs of progress in US-China trade talks and largely positive earnings reports from a host of companies.

Shares of Siemens hit their highest in more than a year after the German industrial company beat fourth-quarter profit expectations, while Italy’s biggest bank UniCredit rose 6 per cent after announcing its first share buyback in more than a decade after solid third-quarter earnings.

Lufthansa jumped 6.8 per cent on plans to cut costs at some of its units to revive profit. The German airline’s shares helped boost the wider travel and leisure index by 1.3 per cent, making it one of the top gainers among the major European sub-sectors.

On the trade front, China’s commerce ministry said the world’s two economic giants were working on a deal that would roll back trade tariffs in different stages.

“There are still hurdles to be overcome but it is encouraging that, contrary to last spring, Chinese negotiators are sending more positive signals, as well their US counterparts,” said Raoul Leering, head of international trade analysis at ING.

The news sparked a broad-based rally in Europe, while Wall Street was pushed to a record high. Trade-sensitive Frankfurt shares rose 0.8 per cent to close at their highest level since February 2018.

It also helped investors shrug off another weak data point from Germany showing industrial output fell more than expected in September.

London’s FTSE 100 rose 0.1 per cent as the pound weakened after two Bank of England officials voted to lower interest rates yesterday, contrary to expectations of a unanimous decision to hold rates.

“That suggests that the Bank is very unlikely to follow through with its signalled rate hikes (if Brexit goes smoothly) any time soon,” ING’s developed markets economist James Smith said.

But a 9.7 per cent tumble in insurer Hiscox on brokerage downgrades and a 2.7 per cent slip in London Stock Exchange Group after it said it would consult with members regarding a shorter trading day, saw the FTSE post the smallest gains among regional peers.

The FTSE midcap index and Irish stocks gained 1.1 per cent and 1.3 per cent,respectively.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.4 per cent. It is now a little over 2 per cent away from its record high hit in April 2015.

Among the top gainers across European sub-sectors were automakers and miners, while defensive plays such as telecoms and utilities fell, suggesting higher risk appetite.

The world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal jumped 6.7 per cent on better-than-expected results. Shares in wind turbine maker Vestas rose 11 per cent to the top of the STOXX 600 after it reported forecast-beating quarterly operating profit.

French gas and power group Engie posted its worst day in more than eight months on less optimistic guidance, taking the utility sector down 1.9 per cent for its worst day in a month. ­— Reuters

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