U.S-China trade talk optimism lifts European shares

The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

January 18, 2019

By Julien Ponthus

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares rose on Friday, hitting their highest level since early December as renewed hopes for trade negotiations between the United States and China lifted markets from Wall Street to Beijing.

The pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> benchmark index was up 1 percent at 0927 GMT with trade-exposed indexes or stocks gaining most and automotives <.SXAP> leading with a 1.6 percent rise.

However, sentiment remains fragile as the U.S. government does not appear to have finalised its position on its trade talks with China.

“It seems almost impossible to sensibly gauge where U.S. – China relations stand”, Jasper Lawler from LCG said.

“Yet the market hangs on each headline, highlighting just how sensitive it is to the ongoing trade issue”, he added.

It was not all good news for European stock prices, with some big fallers among the top movers.

Telecom Italia <TLIT.MI> dropped about 9 percent after it said it expected to report full-year organic core earnings of around 8.1 billion euros ($9.2 billion), a drop of under 5 percent compared to the year before.

Another profit warning by Ryanair <RYA.I> also spooked investors and the low cost airline’s shares dropped 4.2 percent and dragged rival easyJet <EZJ.L> down 2 percent.

“This announcement was not wholly unexpected so we do not expect the shares to react by the full potential consensus net profit adjustment”, Citi analysts said.

The European banking sector <.SX7P> was recovering, up 1.8 percent, from the previous session’s losses when a profit warning by France’s SocGen <SOGN.PA> hit the sector hard.

Oil and gas stocks <.SXEP> also rose strongly, up 1.5 percent, as the oil price strengthened after a report showed production fell sharply last month, easing fears about prolonged oversupply.

Friday’s corporate results included French supermarket retailer Casino <CASP.PA> whose shares rose 6 percent as traders and analysts said fourth quarter sales had weathered “Yellow Vest” anti-government demonstrations in France.

“France has held up well despite disruption from protests”, Jefferies said in a research note.

Other optimism came from German online meal-kit delivery service HelloFresh <HFGG.DE> which surged 16 percent after raising its revenue forecast.

Investors are bracing for swings in European stocks as earnings test whether fears about slowing economic and corporate growth that punished equities in recent months are a reality.

Expectations are low. According to I/B/E/S Refinitiv, fourth-quarter earnings per share (EPS) for STOXX 600 companies are expected to have grown by 6 percent, more than half the levels seen in Q3 and Q4 2017.

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus; editing by Josephine Mason and Alexander Smith)

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