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European stock markets 'checked out' ahead of Easter break

European stock markets 'checked out' ahead of Easter break

Signage is seen outside the entrance of the London Stock Exchange in London. (REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)

LONDON: European stock markets were mixed on Thursday (Apr 18) as investors wound down their positions before the Easter break, with positivity surrounding China-US trade talks and strong US retail sales data failing to spur much buying action.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked higher in midday trading after it was reported that US retail sales rose 1.6 per cent in March, handily beating expectations.

There was also a batch of mostly positive earnings reports, however the broad-based S&P 500 and tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index edged downwards.

Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare said the market was "jogging in place" before the long weekend.

"It's hard to tell if the market is just tired after a massive rally, checked out in front of an extended holiday weekend, or genuinely bothered by concerns regarding the economic outlook," O'Hare said.

The euro meanwhile slid versus the dollar as data showed business growth in the eurozone had hit the lowest level since 2014 on German sluggishness and stagnation in France.

The single currency's drop helped support eurozone exporters, pushing up overall stock market values in the region.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 index closed up 0.5 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 won 0.4 per cent on the day.

Outside the eurozone, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index lost 0.2 per cent, despite stronger-than-expected British retail sales figures.

Beset by looming political risks such as Brexit and weaker global growth, the eurozone is struggling to keep the economy growing at a healthy pace, a survey from data firm IHS Markit showed.

"Traders are mindful of the Easter break and we might see some trimming their positions ahead of the long weekend," said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

US-CHINA TRADE TALKS

A wide range of US companies reported first quarter results, with American Express, Travelers and Honeywell International all rising, while Alcoa retreated after its earnings.

Focus also remained on China-US trade talks after it was reported that President Donald Trump's key negotiator Robert Lighthizer is preparing to visit Beijing at the end of the month, hoping to end the long-running tariffs spat.

The Wall Street Journal story was followed by Trump saying he was optimistic the talks would be "successful", and telling reporters there would be an announcement "very, very shortly".

The upbeat developments were the latest to give hope for an end to a row that has dragged on the global economy and contributed to a market sell-off at the end of last year.

However investors in Asia seemed unmoved, with markets there in the red on Thursday.

Key figures around 1540 GMT:

 

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 per cent at 7,459.88 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.5 per cent at 12,222.39

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 per cent at 5,580.338

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 per cent at 3,499.23

 

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.8 per cent at 22,090.12 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 per cent at 29,963.26 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.4 per cent at 3,250.20 (close)

 

Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.1238 from US$1.1296 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.3004 from US$1.3039

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.93 yen from 112.09 yen

 

Oil - Brent Crude: UP nine cents at US$71.71 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 12 cents at US$63.75 per barrel

Source: AFP/de

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