European shares dented by U.S. data, euro bounce
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed down 0.5 percent at 1,573.09 points — with export-focused German stocks among the hardest hit — after the euro hit a session high against the dollar.
U.S. industrial production fell for a fifth straight month in April, while a sharp drop in American consumer sentiment in early May highlighted the struggle facing the U.S. economy to pick up steam after a dismal first quarter.
Shares in oil-and-gas companies Technip and Statoil were down about 3 percent as oil prices fell below $66 per barrel.
“People are taking some risk off the table,” SteppenWolf Capital Chief Investment Officer Phoebus Theologites said. “‘Sell in May and go away’ has so far worked out this year.”
Dutch sciences company DSM rose over 4 percent on talk of a potential takeover bid, with Germany’s Evonik seen as a possible suitor. Evonik eased 0.8 percent.
Among other standouts, Roche rose 1.8 percent after reporting strong results from cancer drug trials.
Julius Baer was another gainer, with traders citing speculation the Swiss bank and financial group could be a target for Intesa Sanpaolo as well as the possibility of a smaller than expected U.S. tax fine.
Investors said signs a bond market sell-off was starting to recede were helping prop up stocks, after an earlier spike in the German bund yield had contributed to a second straight week of European equity outflows, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Clairinvest fund manager Ion-Marc Valahu said on Friday that he had cancelled some of his earlier “short” bets on a weakening of Europe’s stock market rally.
“We seem to have reached a bottom on the German Bund. I’ve been covering my ‘shorts’ and getting long on equities,” he said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index remains near its highest level in more than 14 years and is up about 15 percent since the start of 2015.
Equity strategists at Citigroup said that in spite of signs of bubbles emerging in financial markets, it was too early to go against the prevailing bull market trend in equities.
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