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European stocks higher; Lufthansa soars after returning to profit

Published 03/03/2023, 10:12
© Reuters.
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By Peter Nurse

Investing.com - European stock markets traded higher Friday, boosted by positive sentiment overseas ahead of the release of the final reading of Eurozone services activity data.

At 03:50 ET (08:50 GMT), the DAX index in Germany traded 0.9% higher, the CAC 40 in France climbed 0.6% and the FTSE 100 in the U.K. rose 0.4%.

European equities have benefited from the gains in Asia overnight, after data showed that activity in China's services sector expanded at the fastest pace in six months in February, suggesting a robust recovery is well underway in this important export market for European companies.

The Caixin/S&P Global services purchasing managers' index rose to 55.0 in February from 52.9 in January, as the sector expanded in the two months after the government ended its severe mobility restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The final services PMI data for the largest countries of the Eurozone, and also the U.S., are scheduled for release later in the session, and are expected to point to expansion in this sector.

Adding to the positive sentiment in Europe was the positive close on Wall Street late Thursday, as investors cheered comments by Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic, who said he favored "slow and steady" as the appropriate course of action for the Fed, arguing for a hike of 25 basis points later this month.

Back in Europe, markets have fully priced in a 50 basis point hike by the European Central Bank in two weeks' time, and President Christine Lagarde said on Thursday that more interest-rate increases may be needed to combat inflation still at highly elevated levels.

In the corporate sector, Lufthansa (ETR:LHAG) stock rose 5.6% after the German airline reported a full-year operating profit, overturning the previous year’s loss, with a strong increase in travel demand resulting in a "clearly positive result" in 2022 despite high cost inflation and fuel prices.

Pearson (LON:PSON) stock fell 2% despite the education publishing company reporting an operating profit ahead of expectations, as investors fretted about a drop in sales in its Higher Education section.

Oil prices traded largely flat Friday, but are set for weekly gains as optimism about a recovery in fuel demand from China, the largest crude importer in the world, outweighed concerns over rising U.S. stockpiles and likely tightening monetary policy.

By 03:50 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.1% lower at $78.20 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 0.1% to $84.77.

Brent has climbed over 2% so far this week, on course for a second consecutive week of gains, while WTI has jumped around 2%, rebounding from a small loss the previous week.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.5% to $1,849.95/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.3% higher at 1.0622.

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