European shares hit three-month highs as Nestle, Airbus, AstraZeneca shine
LONDON (Reuters) – Optimism about U.S.-China trade talks and strong results from Nestle (NESN.S), AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Airbus (AIR.PA) helped European shares extend their winning streak on Thursday to hit their highest in three months.
The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.5 percent at 0938 GMT, with Paris’ CAC 40 .FCHI up 0.6 percent, and London’s FTSE 100 up 0.4 percent. The pan-European index was on track for its best weekly performance since early November.
Frankfurt’s trade-sensitive DAX .GDAXI was up 0.4 percent, showing resilience after GDP data revealed the euro zone’s largest economy only just escaped falling into recession in the fourth quarter. GDP data for the whole bloc will be released at 1000 GMT.
“Given that on this occasion there were no obvious temporary factors dragging on the economy, this bodes ill for economic growth (in Germany) this year too,” said Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist at Capital Economics.
Chinese export and import data for January came in well ahead of expectations earlier, providing some relief for investors who will see that a sign of some recovery in the global economy more generally this year.
But markets continue to await signs of concrete progress in trade talks in Beijing, with latest reports saying U.S. President Donald Trump is considering pushing back a March 1 deadline for higher tariffs by 60 days.
Closer to home, European industrial and consumer staple heavyweights stole the show on Thursday: Airbus (AIR.PA) delivered better-than-expected results, taking some of the sting out of news that Europe’s largest aerospace group has abandoned its flagship A380 programme. Its shares jumped more than 5 percent to levels just shy of its record set last July.
AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) fourth quarter sales topped forecasts and the British drugmaker forecast another year of growth, sending its shares up more than 4 percent. They were on track for their best day since July.
Nestle (NESN.S), the world’s top food and drinks maker, soared to all-time highs after giving an upbeat outlook for the year ahead on an improving outlook in China and North America.
The news lifted the food and beverage index .SX3P 1.4 percent to its highest since November 2017.
Banks were a mixed bag, with Commerzbank (CBKG.DE) rallying after its quarterly results beat expectations, while results from Credit Suisse and Credit Agricole failed to ignite much love from investors. Their shares were down 2.3 percent and 1.1 percent respectively.
In healthcare, UK medical devices maker ConvaTec (CTEC.L) plunged almost 20 percent to record lows and the bottom of the STOXX 600 after full-year results.
The company said Brexit could hurt sales in all European Union countries and its production plants, and it was making plans to stock up to deal with any potential supply disruption.
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