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Europe Markets: European stocks inch toward fresh records as Chinese data cheer investors, while U.S. futures hold steady

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A previous version of this report gave an incorrect reference to Chinese growth data. The story has been corrected.

European stocks were setting up for fresh record highs on Friday, as investors absorbed strong data out of China and a handful of corporate results. U.S. stock futures were holding mostly steady after Wall Street also saw a record-setting session.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index
SXXP,
+0.39%

rose 0.5% to 440.98, after rising to a record close of 438.55 on Thursday. The index was headed for its fourth straight weekly gain, up 0.9%. The German DAX
DAX,
+0.83%

climbed 0.9% to 15,402.54, gains that will take out Thursday’s record high for the index if they hold. The DAX is also headed for its seventh straight weekly gain, up 1.1%.

The French CAC 40
PX1,
+0.27%

gained 0.4% and the FTSE 100
UKX,
+0.44%

added 0.7%. The euro
EURUSD,
+0.16%

and British pound
GBPUSD,
+0.03%

were flat against the dollar.

Investors cheered data from China that showed blowout gross domestic product growth of 18.3% in the first quarter, and the fastest on record, even as it missed expectations slightly. That compared to 6.5% year-over-year growth in the final quarter of 2020. Industrial production and retail sales also saw double-digit growth. 

“China’s stellar economic prints, coupled with Thursday’s better-than-expected data out of the U.S., shows the global economic recovery is indeed gathering momentum and such prospects appear to justify the bullish prospects for risk assets moving forward,” said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM, to clients in a note.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.90%

and S&P 500 index
SPX,
+1.11%

also finished at records on Thursday, after further evidence of a recovery from the pandemic as retail sales surged in March and jobless benefit claims fell sharply. Dow
YM00,
+0.11%
,
S&P 500
ES00,
+0.09%

and Nasdaq-100 futures
NQ00,
+0.01%

were flat to slightly lower.

The spread of COVID-19 was in focus, after France on Thursday recorded more than 100,000 deaths, the third European country to do so, even as the pace of vaccinations has been picking up. Germany is also struggling with a third wave and considering further restrictions.

Europe’s already faltering immunization program was dealt another blow this week after pharmaceutical Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
+0.29%

said it would delay the planned rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine on the continent. Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to permanently stop using drug company AstraZeneca’s
AZN,
+1.99%

AZN,
-0.64%

vaccine, following news of its possible link to very rare blood clot cases.

Read: Pfizer’s CEO believes people will need COVID-19 vaccination shots every year

Automobile makers were in the lead after data showed passenger-car registrations in the European Union surged 87% in March, but against a low comparison base in 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions introduced at the time.

Daimler shares
DAI,
+3.17%

rose nearly 3%, after the auto maker, citing preliminary results, said first-quarter earnings will be above the market forecast, thanks to a solid performance by its Mercedes-Benz unit.

HelloFresh
HFG,
+1.65%

lifted 2021 revenue guidance, after the German meal-kit maker said revenue and earnings in its first quarter should beat market forecasts. Shares climbed 4%.

Sector gains were led by financials, with Bank of Ireland
BIRG,
+7.84%

BIRG,
+6.94%

up 6%, after the bank said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with KBC Bank Ireland to potentially acquire all of its performing loan assets and liabilities.

And HeidelbergCement
HEI,
+1.80%

said late on Thursday that it expects higher first-quarter revenue and earnings numbers that beat market expectations. Shares of the German cement maker rose 2%.

: Bed Bath & Beyond CEO says the retailer wasn’t a ‘major beneficiary’ of stimulus funds

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