EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Finish Higher As Tensions Around Syria Take A Back Seat

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04/12/2018 | 04:27 pm


By Sara Sjolin and Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch



ECB minutes suggest policy makers will move gradually on unwinding QE



European stocks closed higher Thursday, as concerns over a potential military conflict in Syria eased.



Earlier in the session, those fears were seen as keeping investors from making any big bets on the equity markets. But global stocks took a brighter tone after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that a military strike on the Middle Eastern country may not be imminent .



Meanwhile, minutes of the European Central Bank's meeting also suggest the central bank will move only gradually to phase out its 30 billion-euro ($37 billion) a month bond-buying program and start raising interest rates.



What are markets doing?



The Stoxx Europe 600 index added 0.7% to close at 378.81, after logging a 0.6% loss on Wednesday . The pan-European gauge is up 1.1% for the week, cutting its year-to-date loss to 2.7%.



Germany's DAX 30 index gained 1% to finish at 12,415.01, while France's CAC 40 rose 0.6% to end at 5,309.22. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index ended less than 0.1% higher at 7,258.34 .



The euro fell to $1.2317 from $1.2369 late Wednesday in New York.



What is driving the market?



Trump's tweet gave some relief from the geopolitical concerns that had been weighing on markets since the U.S. president signaled on Wednesday that a missile attack on Syria was not far off.



(https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/984374422587965440)



The possibility of a U.S. strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been growing since a suspected government-sanctioned chemical-weapons attack killed civilians in Damascus over the weekend. Russia has warned the U.S. not to launch an attack, saying it'll shoot down any missiles.



Recent volatility on global stock markets has also been partly driven by escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China. European Central Bank policy makers see trade wars as a risk to the eurozone's economic recovery, minutes released Thursday showed.



(https://twitter.com/StockCats/status/984416911609008128)



Which stocks are in focus?



Playtechjumped 5.7% after the gambling-software company said it'll buy Italian SNAITech SpA (SNA.MI)for 846 million euros ($1.05 billion).



Man Groupgained 8% after the U.K. asset manager said funds under management rose in the first quarter and that it plans to repurchase up to $100 million of its own shares .



Shares in Micro Focus International PLCtacked on 7.6% following a Bloomberg report (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-12/elliott-is-said-to-take-stake-in-software-firm-micro-focus) that American billionaire Paul Singer's Elliott Management hedge fund has established a stake in the business-software company and plans to push for changes. The stock remains down 50% for the year, weighed down by troubles with its merger with Hewlett-Packard SHYEnterprise Co.'s (HPE)software business.



Royal DSMadded 5% after the Dutch health, nutrition and materials group raised its full-year outlook .



Carrefourdropped 3.4%. The French supermarket chain said late Wednesday sales dropped in the first quarter of 2018 due to less-favorable markets in Europe.



GEA Groupslid 8.5% after the provider of food-industry equipment said first-quarter operating profit will be down from last year's level.



Outside the Stoxx 600, shares of Sulzer AGrallied 20% after the Swiss engineering company confirmed it no longer faces the possibility of U.S. sanctions and that it is free to conduct business globally.



Shares in Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (NAS.OS)soared 47% after the parent company for British Airways, International Airlines Group S.A. (IAG.LN) , said it may attempt a full takeover of the budget carrier. IAG's stock closed down 1.1%.



Carpetright PLCtanked 8.1% after the retailer said it'll close at least 92 stores to raise around GBP60 million as part of a "fundamental restructuring."



Which economic data are in focus?



Industrial production in the eurozone fell for a third straight month in February, an indication that economic growth may be slowing in the region. Output was 0.8% lower than in January, compared with expectations for a 0.2% rise. It was the largest month-on-month drop since the end of 2016.



Germany's economic upswing "softened a little" at the start of the year, as industrial turnover slipped slightly, the country's economics ministry said.



--Karen Friar contributed to this article





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