Equities push higher before Easter break

Equities push higher before Easter break

London (AFP) – European and US stock markets rose Thursday as investors closed positions before the long Easter holiday weekend.

The mood has improved this week but worries remain over Wall Street’s recent tech-based sell-off and trade war fears, dealers said.

“The onset of the Easter holiday encouraged investors to take a well-deserved breather,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group.

Sentiment was lifted after Chicago-based US exchange giant CME Group bought British operator NEX on Thursday for about £3.9 billion ($5.4 billion, 4.4 billion euros) in a deal aimed at cost-cutting and diversifying their businesses.

In other M&A news, a majority of shareholders in British engineering group GKN accepted an £8.1 billion takeover offer from investment firm Melrose after a long-running battle, sending GKN’s shares soaring over 9 percent.

Meanwhile, data showing first-time claims for unemployment benefits hitting a 45-year low last week and the US inflation rate hitting an 11-month high of 1.8 percent also comforted investors, helping Wall Street push higher, with the Dow up 1.0 percent in midday trading.

– Renault accelerates –

Paris stocks revved higher on a 5.8 percent gain in Renault shares.

Shares in the French automaker reached the highest level in a decade at one point after the Bloomberg news agency said that Renault was talking to its alliance partner Nissan about a merger that would create a new group trading as a single stock.

The London stock market edged higher as official data showed that the British economy grew by 1.8 percent last year. That was an upgrade from the prior estimate of 1.7 percent.

Shares in carmakers drove the DAX 30 higher in Frankfurt after Volkswagen made an offer to change diesels hit by pollution, with Daimler and BMW teaming up in car-sharing. 

Frankfurt, Paris and London will shut up shop for a four-day Easter holiday weekend at the close of play on Thursday, and will reopen for business on Tuesday.

US markets will be closed on Friday but open on Monday.

In Asia, stocks fluctuated Thursday as a volatile week drew to an early close in many markets.

Hong Kong swung through the day and finished up 0.2 percent, following the previous day’s 2.5 percent dive, while Shanghai finished 1.2 percent higher.

Seoul added 0.7 percent following news that North Korean leader Kim and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit on April 27.

– Trump attacks Amazon –

Tech sector jitters weren’t calmed Thursday when US President Donald Trump took aim at Amazon, claiming the US online giant pays too little in taxes and hurts other retailers.

“Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” Trump tweeted.

The comments came a day after a report by the news site Axios that Trump was “obsessed” with Amazon.

Amazon fell 4.4 percent on Wednesday following the report and dropped another 1.0 percent in Thursday trading.

Market titan Facebook has led a plunge in big-name stocks in recent days on worries about a regulatory clampdown following a massive data breach at the social media site. Its shares rebounded nearly 4 percent in midday trading, but are still down around 14 percent from mid-March.

 – Key figures around 1530 GMT – 

New York – Dow: UP 1.0 percent at 24.096.26

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,056.61 points (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 1.3 percent at 12,096.73 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.7 percent at 5,167.30 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.1 percent at 3,367.13

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 21,159.08 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 30,093.38 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 3,160.53 (close)

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.33 yen from 106.85 yen at 2100 GMT 

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2299 from $1.2308 

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4031 from $1.4077

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 26 cents at $69.79 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 51 cents at $64.89