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Europe close: Stocks finish higher as dollar slips

By Josh White

Date: Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Europe close: Stocks finish higher as dollar slips

(Sharecast News) - European markets showed resilience on Thursday, bolstered by a surge in eurozone construction activity.
The pan-Europe Stoxx 600 edged up 0.32%, closing at 500.11 points.

Germany's DAX index gained 0.45%, reaching 17,850.81 points, while France's CAC 40 index rose by 0.52% to settle at 8,023.26 points.

The UK's FTSE 100 also saw a modest 0.37% rise, closing at 7,877.05 points.

"European markets are enjoying a strong start to the trading day, as the bulls seek to step in to rescue what has been a pretty damning April thus far," said Scope Markets chief market analyst Joshua Mahony earlier.

"The risk-on sentiment being felt today has helped drive the dollar lower, following a period of gains that saw the greenback reach a five-month high yesterday."

Mahony said what was notable over recent months was the outperformance of European indices compared with their US counterparts, as their lofty valuations brought greater profit taking.

"The Federal Reserve are facing elevated inflation pressures and a solid economy, raising the likeliness of a divergence this year as European central banks cut rates ahead of their US counterparts."

Eurozone construction activity rises, new car registrations fall

In economic news, eurozone construction activity experienced a notable uptick in February, according to fresh data from Eurostat.

Seasonally-adjusted production in construction increased by 1.8% in both the euro area and the wider EU bloc, marking a significant uptick from the prior month.

The growth was primarily driven by a 4.1% increase in civil engineering projects in the eurozone, accompanied by rises of 3.5% in building construction and 1.7% in specialised construction activities.

Germany - the EU's largest economy - saw a substantial 7.9% hike in construction output for February.

However, France's output declined 2.1%, while Spain saw only a modest 0.4% increase, and data was unavailable for seven countries, including Italy and Ireland.

Despite the monthly improvement, year-on-year construction output fell by 0.4% in the common currency area, and by 0.6% in the EU.

Meanwhile, new car registrations in the EU saw a downturn in March, attributed to the timing of the Easter holidays, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA).

Total sales across the bloc amounted to 1.03 million vehicles last month, marking a 5.2% decrease compared to March 2023.

That decline followed consecutive monthly increases of 12.1% in January and 10.1% in February.

Notably, sales in the EU's largest markets all declined, including Germany, down 6.2%; Spain, off 4.7%; Italy, which lost 3.7%; and France, which was 1.5% weaker.

Battery-electric car sales also suffered, dropping 11.3% to 134,397 units, contributing to a decrease in market share from 13.9% to 13.0%.

However, hybrid-electric car sales saw an increase, with market share rising to 29% from 24.4% a year earlier, while plug-in hybrids fell 6.5% to 73,029 units, capturing a market share of 7.1%.

Across the Atlantic, existing home sales in the US dipped last month, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The seasonally-adjusted number of existing home sales decreased by 4.3% to reach 4.19 million units.

That was slightly below economists' expectations, who had anticipated a drop to 4.2 million units.

Takeaway delivery firms find favour, Nokia reverses losses

In equities, Swiss engineering firm ABB jumped 6.02% following a report of flat revenue totaling $7.87bn, alongside an 11% increase in operating profit to $1.41 billion, surpassing expectations and driving investor optimism.

Takeaway food delivery companies also made gains, with Deliveroo leading the pack with a 4.46% increase.

Deliveroo's positive first-quarter performance, marked by a return to order growth and an uptick in gross transaction value, fueled investor confidence.

Just Eat Takeaway and meal kit giant HelloFresh also experienced upticks, of 5.71% and 8.19%, respectively.

Nokia, despite initially experiencing losses, managed to reverse its fortunes to close 2.22% higher.

The Finnish company had fallen short of market expectations for operating profit amid a 19% decline in net sales.

On the downside, Sartorius Stedim Biotech plunged 15.69% after releasing disappointing first-quarter results.

Reporting by Josh White for Sharecast.com.

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