European Shares Advance On Recovery Hopes

European stocks were broadly higher on Friday as strong U.S. economic data and progress on vaccination rollouts helped support hopes of economic recovery.

Underlying sentiment remained cautious amid rising Covid-19 cases across the continent, with the European Commission warning that the European Union is at the start of a third wave of the pandemic.

The pan European Stoxx 600 rose half a percent to 425.18 after ending flat with a negative bias in the previous session.

The German DAX gained 0.7 percent, France’s CAC 40 index edged up 0.2 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 was up 0.6 percent.

Sika AG shares advanced 1.6 percent. The Swiss specialty chemicals company said that it has acquired the flooring adhesives business of DriTac, a U.S.-based floor covering adhesives company with an especially strong position in wood floor bonding.

Banco Santander S.A. climbed more than 2 percent. The Spanish bank said that it plans to make a cash offer to buy a remaining 8.3 percent stake in its Mexican unit for a total consideration of 550 million euros. Banco Santander currently owns 91.7 percent of Santander México.

Miners BHP, Rio Tinto, Anglo American, Antofagasta and Glencore surged 2-4 percent, helped by higher commodity prices.

Oil and gas company BP Plc gained 1.3 percent and Royal Dutch Shell added 1 percent as oil prices rebounded on the news that the Suez Canal may stay blocked for at least another week, squeezing global supply.

Engineering company Smiths Group jumped 5.2 percent after reporting better-than-expected interim profit and issuing upbeat forecast for the second half of the fiscal year.

Stagecoach Group rallied 2.5 percent. The transport group noted that since the interim results announcement, it has seen further positive cash flow (excluding movements in borrowings), and continues to have available liquidity of over 850 million pounds.

Oxford Instruments, a provider of technology and tools for research and industry, soared 14 percent. The company said that it expects revenues for fiscal 2020/21 to be marginally ahead of last year, inclusive of a small negative impact from currency effects.

In economic news, German business confidence improved more than expected in March, survey results from the ifo Institute showed.

The business confidence index rose to 96.6 in March from revised 92.7 in February. The score was forecast to climb to 93.2.

The current conditions climbed to 93.0, which was above economists’ forecast of 91.3. Likewise, the expectations indicator advanced to 100.4 versus forecast of 95.0.

Separate report showed that U.K. retail sales recovered in February largely driven by non-food store sales.

Retail sales volume including auto fuel logged a monthly growth of 2.1 percent, in contrast to January’s 8.2 percent decrease. The pace of growth matched economists’ expectations.

On a yearly basis, retail sales fell at a slower pace of 3.7 percent after decreasing 5.9 percent in January. This was the second consecutive drop in sales and was better than the expected drop of -3.5 percent.

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