World News

European shares end higher on hopes of pandemic plateauing

By Sagarika Jaisinghani and Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – European shares rose on Thursday as daily coronavirus death tolls in Spain and Italy eased, adding to signs the pandemic was plateauing.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index <.STOXX> added 0.6%, climbing for the sixth time in seven days.

Gains were driven by technology <.SX8P>, autos <.SXAP> and financial <.SX7P> stocks, while the healthcare sector <.SXDP> gained 2.8%, powered by a 10% jump in Danish food ingredients maker Chr Hansen <CHRH.CO>.

The company said it had not seen a negative impact from the coronavirus but rather a short-term boost in demand as consumers opt for at-home consumption such as frozen pizzas and probiotics for immune system support.

“Today’s moves are mostly driven by hope and markets are eager to hear any news about lockdown exit strategies and the re-opening of economies,” said Stefan Koopman, senior market economist at Rabobank.

The benchmark STOXX 600 has risen to near one-month highs since hitting a trough in March with central banks announcing a raft of stimulus measures, but analysts have warned about another sell-off with economic damage piling up and GDP estimates slashed.

Latest data showed U.S. jobless claims fell slightly to 5.2 million last week from an upwardly revised 6.62 million the week before, but the total figure for the past month still topped 20 million.

U.S. President Donald Trump is also expected to announce “new guidelines” for re-opening the economy on Thursday as he said data suggested the country had passed the peak on new coronavirus infections.

“The market set-up remains unclear as the debate around easing social distancing rules is constantly rebooting expectations for a sharp V-shaped recovery,” said Stephen Innes, markets strategist at AxiCorp.

“Risk sentiment now seems to depend on how quickly economies can re-open without risking overloading healthcare systems if there’s a secondary spread.”

In Europe, analysts expect a corporate recession to deepen in 2020, with earnings for STOXX 600 companies falling 22% in the first quarter and 34.2% in the second, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

“With lockdowns to endure in most major economies throughout April and for many into May, financial pressures on firms are set to intensify this earnings season,” said Simon MacAdam, global economist at Capital Economics.

French state-controlled utility EDF <EDF.PA> fell 5.8% after it forecast a sharp drop in its domestic nuclear power output due to a fall in business activity caused by the health crisis.

But German online fashion retailer Zalando <ZALG.DE> jumped 6.2% as it said it was optimistic about the second quarter after sales picked up in April.

(GRAPHIC: Europe’s winners and losers – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/gjnvwzrlpwr/EU%20wins%20and%20losers.png)

(Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Patrick Graham and Arun Koyyur and Kirsten Donovan)

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