Europe Markets: European stocks struggle amid COVID-19 worries, but are set for best month since November


European stocks struggled on Wednesday, as investors kept an eye on bond yields and COVID-19 worries, but the quarter and month were set to finish on a strong note.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index

was flat at 430.62, following three straight days of gains. The index rose 0.7% on Tuesday, its fifth-highest close on record. For March, the Stoxx is set to register a 6.5% gain, the best return since a 13% jump in November. On a quarterly basis, the index is poised for a rise of 8%.

The German DAX

was down 0.2% on the heels of a record close and 1.3% gain on Thursday. The French CAC 40

and U.K. FTSE 100

were down 0.3%. But those indexes were also set for the best month since November, albeit by a slim margin for the FTSE 100. The pound

and euro

were modestly higher against the dollar.

U.S. stocks opened mixed with gains for technology stocks as the yield on the 10-year Treasury note

slipped back to 1.71%, after hitting 1.77% for the first time since January 2020 on Tuesday. The yield on the 10-year German bund

was slightly easier at 0.293%.

Markets are looking ahead to President Joe Biden’s speech on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan the White House announced earlier.

Shares of pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca


slipped 0.4%. In a further blow for Europe’s slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Germany said it would restrict those shots for people younger than 60 after fresh blood-clotting incidents.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to address the nation on Wednesday evening related to the country’s surging infections.

On the data front, Germany’s unemployment rate declined in March, after an unexpected increase in February following seven months of consecutive drops. Jobless claims fell by 8,000 after rising by 9,000 in February, the Federal Employment Agency said on Wednesday. That is versus forecasts for a fall of 5,000.

Eurozone consumer prices rose 1.3% in March on an annual basis, following a 0.9% year-over-year rise in February. The data were in line with expectations from economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

Among stocks on the move, shares of Deliveroo, which is backed by online retail giant Amazon
sank 25% on the first day of trading in London. The highly anticipated initial public offering from the food delivery service raised £1.5 billion ($2 billion), but shares still fell despite being priced at 390 pence at the lower end of an expected range.

Shares of Hennes & Mauritz

slid 3.8%. In a statement, the Swedish retail giant said it was doing what it could to manage a boycott in China over its decision not to source products from Xinjiang over forced-labor concerns.

Separately, the retailer said it swung to a loss of 1.07 billion Swedish kronor ($122.4 million) for the quarter ended Feb. 28 compared with a profit of SEK1.93 billion a year earlier. Analysts polled by FactSet had expected a loss of SEK1.17 billion.

Credit Suisse stock dropped 3.9%. The bank has been under pressure since it warned on Monday of a significant loss from a margin call of a U.S. client, believed to be Archegos Capital Management.

A day earlier, S&P Global Ratings revised its outlook on the bank’s entities to negative from stable though affirmed its A+/A-1 ratings on the bank and other core operating units. Its BBB+ rating on Credit Suisse Group also stayed the same.

“We believe Credit Suisse can manage potential financial losses due to its strong capitalization and robust underlying earnings, but the incident raises questions about the quality of risk management, the group’s risk appetite, and adequacy of the risk return profile,” said the ratings agency.

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