Investing.com – European stock markets edged higher Friday, helped by further evidence that the region is recovering from the pandemic-influenced slump, while the first-quarter earnings season also continues.
Global stock markets have been pushed to record levels of late by signs of a broad economic recovery, helped by vast amounts of fiscal stimulus and ultra-easy monetary policies.
More evidence of this recovery came from France, as the Eurozone’s second-biggest economy grew 0.4% in the first three months of the year from the fourth quarter, when it had shrunk 1.4%.
The news was less impressive in Spain, as its economy contracted 0.5% in the first quarter, down 4.3% on the year, but this still represented an improvement on the 8.9% annual drop the previous quarter. Germany’s GDP fell even more sharply, by 1.7%, rather than the 1.5% expected.
Eurozone GDP data are due at 5 AM ET (0900 GMT), and the bloc’s economy is forecast to have shrunk 2% in the first quarter versus a 4.9% fall in the final quarter of last year.
Elsewhere, the earnings season continues, with AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) stock up 2.5% after the much-maligned drugmaker said it expected higher sales in the second half of the year. It reported first-quarter profit and sales ahead of analysts’ average expectations, including $275 million in Covid-19 vaccine sales.
The banking sector remained in focus Friday, with Barclays (LON:BARC) stock down almost 6% after the U.K. bank reported first-quarter net profit of 1.7 billion pounds ($2.37 billion), but declined to release cash set aside to cover bad loans as its peers had done, suggesting caution going forward.
BNP Paribas (OTC:BNPQY) stock also fell 1.3% after its better than expected first-quarter profit was helped by lower provisions for pandemic-related bad loans. Banco de Sabadell (MC:SABE) stock climbed 4% after its British unit TSB swung back to a profit in the first quarter after speeding up a cost-cutting plan and seeing a rebound in its equity trading business.
Elsewhere, Nestle (SIX:NESN) stock rose 0.6% after the world’s largest food packaging company said it has bought vitamin and supplements maker The Bountiful Company for $5.75 billion.
Oil prices edged lower on profit taking Friday, but are still set to end the week with hefty gains as signs of economic recovery stoked optimism of a strong rebound in global demand this year.