European Stocks Higher; Earnings and French GDP Data Help

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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. 

At 3:50 AM ET (0850 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 0.6% higher, the CAC 40 in France rose 0.2%, and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 climbed 0.3%.

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.

U.S. crude futures traded 0.7% lower at $64.53 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.5% to $67.68. Both contracts are up around 4% this week, climbing to their highest levels in six weeks.

Elsewhere, gold futures traded flat at $1,768.55/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% lower at 1.2105.