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Europe Markets: European stocks struggle at the end of the month, as growth slows and earnings roll in

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European stocks largely stuck to the flat line on Friday, as investors absorbed downbeat growth data from the region. Shares of AstraZeneca rose after results, while tobacco makers were also moving higher.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index
SXXP,
-0.15%

was flat at 438.989, with the index up just over 2% as the month of April winds down. The German DAX
DAX,
+0.12%

rose 0.4%, the French CAC 40
PX1,
-0.41%

was flat, and the FTSE 100 index
UKX,
+0.31%

was up 0.4%. The pound
GBPUSD,
-0.92%

and euro
EURUSD,
-0.73%

fell against a higher dollar
DXY,
+0.70%
.

U.S. stocks fell after strong personal spending data and as shares of micromessaging service Twitter
TWTR,
-13.44%

plunged, due in part to disappointing user numbers. The S&P 500
SPX,
-0.71%

finished at an all-time high on Thursday after upbeat results from technology giants Apple
AAPL,
-0.29%

and Facebook
FB,
-1.19%
,
as well as strong growth data.

Data from China showed manufacturing and nonmanufacturing purchasing managers indexes for April expanding, but well short of hopes, with a global chip shortage weighing in part on manufacturers.

European economic data showed France’s economy grew 0.4% in the first quarter of the year, despite the tightening of restrictions to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Germany’s economy declined 1.7%, while the Spanish and Italian economies contracted 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively.

Another barrage of earnings rolled out, with shares of heavily weighted AstraZeneca
AZN,
+3.72%

AZN,
+4.79%

climbing nearly 3%, after the drug company reported higher sales and earnings for the first quarter, and backed its 2021 outlook, helped by sales of key cancer drugs.

Read: AstraZeneca reveals COVID-19 vaccine sales but that isn’t why the stock is rising

Signify
LIGHT,
+7.98%

led the Stoxx 600 gainers, with shares up 8% after the Dutch lighting company reported a 97% rise in net profit for the first quarter of the year. Sales were lifted by the connected-home category and a recovery in China, as well as improvements in other regions.

The tobacco sector, another heavyweight, was also supporting the Stoxx 600, with shares of British American Tobacco
BATS,
+2.08%

BTI,
+0.03%

and Imperial Brands
IMB,
+2.59%

up 2% each, after media reports said that Kenneth Dart, a Cayman Islands-based billionaire, has taken 7% and 3% stakes in those companies, respectively.

Several banks reported results. Shares of Barclays
BCS,
-8.85%

BARC,
-7.04%

dropped 6%, after the U.K. bank beat first-quarter expectations, helped by a sharp drop in impairment charges, but net interest income fell.

BNP Paribas
BNP,
-1.10%

reported forecast-beating first-quarter net profit, helped by strong activity at its investment bank and falling provisions. But shares of Paris’ biggest lender by assets slipped 1%.

Spanish lender Banco de Sabadell
SAB,
+8.33%

reported a drop in first-quarter net profit, as a decline in provisions to cover potential loan losses failed to offset a revenue decrease. Sabadell said its cost-savings plan, which includes an 11% cut in head count, will boost earnings from the second quarter onward. Shares of the Spanish bank rose 4%.

Swiss Re
SREN,
+3.18%

said it swung to a profit in the first quarter, as losses linked to COVID-19 and natural disasters were offset by strong underlying performance in all businesses. Shares of the Swiss reinsurer climbed 3%.

Food and beverage company Nestlé
NESN,
-0.02%

NSRGY,
-0.54%

said it has reached a deal with private equity group KKR & Co. to buy core brands of The Bountiful Company for $5.75 billion. The deal, which should be completed in the second half of the year, will expand Nestlé’s health and nutrition portfolio. Shares rose 0.6%.

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