European stocks extend rally, Solvay shines

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By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON - European shares rose on Friday, extending gains on hopes of fresh central banking stimulus moves, with Belgian chemicals group Solvay and Airbus planemaker EADS among the best performers after strong earnings reports.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.3 percent to 1,045.57 points, building on a 2.4 percent gain made on Thursday. The Euro STOXX 50 rose 0.3 percent to 2,256.63 points.

Markets had rallied on Thursday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to take all necessary steps to protect the euro zone from collapse.

The rebound followed a fall of more than 4 percent in the FTSE EuroFirst over the previous four trading sessions, and the index could still end the week in negative territory after seven straight weeks of advances.

JN Financial senior trader Vladimir Serdar said he did not see the effects of the Draghi comments lasting for long, given that European policymakers have previously disagreed on the details of how to combat the region's sovereign debt crisis.

He said equity markets could fall back ahead of a German constitutional court ruling on September 12 on whether the country can legally ratify Europe's permanent ESM bailout fund and its fiscal pact, an agreement on budget discipline.

“We do not see the effects of the Draghi comments lasting for too long,” said Serdar, who said he would look to sell Britain's FTSE 100 index if it rose above 5,600 points.

Solvay led the FTSEurofirst 300 leaderboard, rising 8.5 percent after it kept its full-year forecasts, while EADS rose 6.3 percent after it raised it operating profit forecast. Many of Europe's leading companies had cut their estimates earlier in the year due to the tough economic environment caused by the euro zone debt crisis.

Earnings growth estimates have been cut by around 6 percent since the start of the year for European companies, compared with 1.7 percent for the S&P 500 companies.

Technology firms, financials, utilities and telecoms have seen the biggest reductions, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Adrian Slack, head of equities at Bastion Capital, remained cautious over the Draghi-led rally, saying he would cut exposure to stocks on the back of any sudden move upwards.

Slack said he would look to sell the Euro STOXX 50 index at 2,322 points, and Germany's DAX at 6,780 points.

“I'm still a seller into the rally. He's (Draghi) got to do it within the framework of the European Union, and it hasn't worked so far,” said Slack. - Reuters


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